Lawmakers Push for New Rules on Mobile Privacy

Oct 16, 2012 13:11:23Posted by John Skorick, MyAKA Founder & CEO

Lawmakers Push for New Rules on Mobile Privacy

Over the past few years, cell phones have become constant companions for many Americans. While some people don't even feel equipped to leave home unless they have their mobile device in their pocket or purse, they may be unaware that many mobile apps use location-based tracking to help make life easier. Such apps can pose a threat to mobile privacy, which is why some lawmakers are pushing for more regulations regarding cell phone tracking software, according to AdWeek.

A report released from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) finds that many cell phone owners aren't aware that some mobile applications or wireless service providers share and sell users' data to third parties, such as advertising companies. This may raise concerns among users, as the GAO says that some of these companies ignore the recommendations and guidelines provided to help users' efforts in protecting online privacy.

"I believe Americans have a fundamental right to privacy: to know what information is being collected about them and to be able to control whether or not that information is shared with third parties," said Senator Al Franken, D-Minn., who requested the report, according to the news source. "This report clearly shows that mobile industry companies often fail to respect that right, giving out consumers' location data without their knowledge or explicit consent."

Along with Senator Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Franken co-sponsored new legislation that would force companies to obtain "explicit consent" before sharing, or even collecting, personal data from users. Bipartisan lawmakers in the House are working on similar legislation.

There are certain steps that users can take now to protect their cell phone privacy. Reviewing settings on their devices and within individual apps can help keep their mobile identity secure.

Unfortunately, a recent Pew Internet survey finds that many Americans fail to take steps to safeguard their internet security. According to the research, only about half of all mobile users say they decided not to install a cell phone app when they realized the amount of personal information it would access. Around 30 percent say they have uninstalled an app because they found out it was collecting personal data that they wished to keep private.

In light of this study and the lawmakers' warning, it may be wise to review the apps on your cell phone to see if any are sharing your personal data. This can be done by reviewing terms of service, looking at privacy settings, or visiting the website of the app creator.