Legislation that would allow civil lawsuits to be filed against anyone collecting and sharing location information from an electronic device without the permission of that device's owner is close to clearing its first hurdle in Congress.
Filed by Senator Al Franken of Minnesota, the Location Privacy Protection Act is aimed at makers of so-called smartphone stalking apps, which allow the location of a cellphone to be tracked in secret.
Action on the measure by the Senate Judiciary Committee was scheduled for Thursday, but that session has been postponed.
Franken was motivated to file the legislation after he learned about a Minnesota woman who was stalked by her abusive partner after he installed location tracking software on her mobile phone.
As the woman consulted with an advocate in a county courthouse, the abuser sent harassing text messages to her phone.
Franken's legislation amends the federal criminal code to bar any nongovernmental individual or entity engaged in the business of offering or providing a service to electronic communications devices from knowingly collecting, obtaining or disclosing to a nongovernmental individual or entity geolocation information from an electronic communications device without the express authorization of the individual using the device.
It also requires the maker of an app collecting location information to notify the user of an electronic device that the app is running on the device within seven days of its installation.