Published in Mobiles

Massachusetts wants to ban location data sales

by on11 July 2023

Expect some push back

Massachusetts lawmakers are weighing a near total ban on buying and selling of location data drawn from consumers' mobile devices in the state.

The move should get some push back because the industry of flogging citizen's movements is big business over the pond and businesses are expected to lobby lawmakers to make the idea go away.

The legislature held a hearing last month on a bill called the Location Shield Act, a sweeping proposal that would sharply curtail the practice of collecting and selling location data drawn from mobile phones in Massachusetts.

The proposal would also institute a warrant requirement for law-enforcement access to location data, banning data brokers from providing location information about state residents without court authorization in most circumstances.

Location data is typically collected through mobile apps and other digital services and doesn't include information such as a name or a phone number. But often, a device's movement patterns are enough to derive a possible identity of its owner. For example, where a phone spends its evening and overnight hours is usually the owner's home address and can be cross-checked against other databases for additional insight.

The Massachusetts proposal is part of a flurry of state-level activity to better protect the digital privacy of residents in the absence of a comprehensive national law.

Ten states have enacted privacy laws in recent years under both Republican and Democratic-controlled legislatures. Several bipartisan proposals are under consideration in Congress but have failed to gain traction.

Last modified on 11 July 2023
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