Congress Takes Up Bill Restricting Use of Geolocation Data

Last month, a bi-partisan bill was introduced in Congress to standardize legal requirements on collecting, using, and sharing geolocation data created by laptops, GPS, and other mobile devices. 

With exceptions, the bill bans you from intentionally collecting geolocation data electronically and knowingly using or disclosing the collected data.  Breaking the law would have severe consequences.  Individuals whose information is collected unlawfully may sue to recover statutory damages of up to $10,000 and attorney’s fees and litigation costs.  There are also fines and jail time.

The exceptions are very broad.  You are free to collect, use, and disclose an individual’s geolocation information if you have that person’s prior consent.  Also, the law includes a conduit exception—i.e., if you’re a cloud storage provider or ISP, there’s no penalty if your services are used to harvest or send the geolocation data.

Bottom line: If your business involves collecting and analyzing geolocation data, or if you're an app developer building a program to collect geolocation data, be sure appropriate protections are in place to obtain and maintain individual consent if and when this bill becomes law.  

Tripp Stroud