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New York City bill would ban sales of mobile location data

Companies wouldn’t be allowed to share users’ location info without their explicit permission

Photo (c) svetikd - Getty Images
A bill introduced Tuesday would make it illegal for cell phone and app companies to sell the location data of users in New York City, the New York Times reports

Companies that break the law would be subject to a steep fine. Additionally, users within city limits would be legally allowed to sue companies that share their data without permission. 

The Times notes that the bill is likely to face resistance from telecommunications companies because selling location data generates billions of dollars annually. But proponents of the bill say its passage would represent a small step toward mitigating the privacy concerns that stem from the practice of location data sharing.

Reining in data sharing

Currently, no law prohibits U.S. companies from selling location data. Earlier this year, FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks called for federal action to put an end to the practice. In an op-ed for the New York Times, Starks expressed frustration over the fact that the FCC has yet to use its authority to crack down on the practice of data sharing. 

If passed, the bill proposed Tuesday would make New York City the first to establish its own set of location data rules. 

Calling the behavior of selling location data a “dangerous breach of privacy,” Democratic City Council member Justin Brannan said New York City can “lead the way” in banning the practice.

“Big telecom companies are making millions $$ by selling our location data without our knowledge -- forget about even asking our permission,” he said on Twitter. “It's time to put an end to Big Brother Big Business. And if the federal gov won't do it, NYC will.” 

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