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Senator Franken Reignites Efforts to End Stalking Apps Once and for All

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U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) is reigniting his efforts to end stalking apps--which abusers can put on victims' smartphones to secretly track their location--once and for all.

As Chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology, and the Law, today Sen. Franken is reintroducing his location privacy bill that would outlaw the development, operation, and sale of stalking apps. You can download a video of Sen. Franken talking about his bill here.

In addition, the legislation would require companies to get consumers' permission before collecting location data off their smartphones, tablets, or in-car navigation devices like OnStar and Garmin, and would also require permission before sharing location information with third parties.

"Tens of millions of Americans have smartphones now," said Sen. Franken. "And the companies that make the software on your phone, including apps, can track your location at any time. I believe that Americans have the right to control who can collect their location, and whether or not it can be given to third parties. But right now, companies--some legitimate, some not--are collecting your location and giving it to whomever they want.

"My commonsense bill will help a whole range of people--including victims of domestic violence and stalking victims. My bill would finally put an end to GPS stalking apps that allow abusers to secretly track their victims. It would also give consumers more control over their very sensitive location data."

The Location Privacy Protection Act of 2014 closes legal loopholes that allow stalking applications to exist on smartphones. Sen. Franken's bill fixes this problem by requiring all companies to get customers' permission before collecting their location data or sharing it with third parties. It also contains targeted provisions to ban stalking apps.

A 2009 Department of Justice report (based on 2006 data) estimates that more than 25,000 American adults are victims of GPS stalking annually. Sen. Franken's bill would require that the federal government gather new statistics and information on GPS stalking.

In 2011, the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women was the first constituent group to contact Sen. Franken after hearing about his efforts to address concerns about the tracking capabilities of mobile devices. You can read their testimony here.

In 2012, Sen. Franken's bill took a key first step toward becoming law when it passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee with bipartisan support.

Sen. Franken's updated stalking apps bill would:

* Require that companies get individuals' permission before collecting location data off of their smartphones, tablets, or in-car navigation devices, and before sharing it with others. This rule doesn't apply to parents tracking kids, emergencies, and similar scenarios;

* Stymie GPS stalking by preventing companies from collecting location data in secret;

* Require that any company that collects the location data of 1,000 or more devices publicly disclose the data they're collecting, what they do with it, who they share it with, and how people can stop that collection or sharing;

* Ban the development, operation, and sale of GPS stalking apps--and allows law enforcement to seize the proceeds of those sales to fund anti-stalking efforts; and

* Require that the federal government gather more information about GPS stalking, facilitate reporting of GPS stalking, and prioritize training grants for law enforcement.


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