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Would You Support A “Do Not Track” Law?

As questions swirl around the storage of location data by users of Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android phones, momentum is building among lawmakers for legislation to regulate the issue of cell phone companies tracking their customers and – this is the sticky bit – storing that information at their headquarters for other purposes such as market research.

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Before the latest brouhaha over Apple and Google, Congresswoman Jackie Speier, a Democrat from California, in February introduced the “Do Not Track Me Online” Bill to direct the Federal Trade Commission to prescribe regulation on smart phone tracking. Erin Ryan, a legislative aid for Speier, believes that all the attention the issue has received will certainly help.

“We’re optimistic that there will be action at some time in the coming months,” Ryan says. “Consumers need a clear easy way to opt out of tracking from the moment they enter the web environment.” Speier is one of several lawmakers working on such legislation.

Senator Al Franken, a Democrat from Minnesota, has “invited” representatives from Google and Apple to take part in a hearing on May 10 in Washington D.C. with the Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law. Confirmed witnesses include officials from the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission, and Justin Brookman, director of the Center for Democracy and Technology’s Project on Consumer Privacy.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has also called for a meeting with Google and Apple.

Apple was unavailable to comment. Google said in a statement, “We look forward to engaging with policymakers about how we protect our users’ mobile privacy,” and added that all “location sharing” on Android provides users with notice and control over the collection and sharing of data; it says users can opt in or out of location data collection: “Any location data that is sent back to Google location servers is anonymized and is not tied or traceable to a specific user.”

Anonymized? As truly eerie as that sounds, it’s debatable whether consumers are losing any sleep over the issue, but John M. Simpson, director of privacy for the non-profit California-based Consumer Watchdog, says cell phone companies should give customers a clear choice. “People want to know what the hell is going on,” he says.

Simpson is also pushing for a do-not-track law. He tells Pay Dirt, “If it doesn’t bother you, that’s fine, but it does bother a lot of people. The user should be in control of whether or not the information is gathered and sent. I think of it as a spy phone instead of a smart phone. I don’t want Google tracking me everywhere I go.”

Would you support this legislation?

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    • The neofaschismen is taking the power.

    • We don’t need to wait for the law, there are technological solutions that let us force trackers not to track us, these technologies fool trackers and let them know that the data they gather is bogus, for instance Breadcrumbs software can force a do not track policy.

    • AND the govt should NOT have this information either!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

About Pay Dirt

  • Pay Dirt examines the millions of consumer decisions Americans make every day: What to buy, how much to pay, whether to rave or complain. Lead written by Quentin Fottrell, the blog examines these interactions, providing readers with news, insight and tips on shopping, spending, customer service, and companies that do right – and wrong – by their customers. Send items, questions and comments to quentin.fottrell@dowjones.com or tweet @SMPayDirt.

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