Historic! Selling smartphone location data can soon be BANNED in the US for the first time ever

Massachusetts lawmakers may soon put a ban on buying and selling smartphone location data in the state. This will be the first time ever, anywhere in the world, such a law is passed, if it goes through.

| Updated on: Jul 11 2023, 17:06 IST
The US might soon ban buying and selling of smartphone location data. (YouTube)
The US might soon ban buying and selling of smartphone location data. (YouTube)

In what could be a watershed moment for the US and the world at large, the state of Massachusetts can soon ban buying and selling smartphone location data almost entirely, according to a report. The law, which can be the first of its kind in the US, would put a stop to entities buying the location data drawn from smartphones of consumers. This will also be the first time any state in the US has attempted to stop what has become a billion-dollar industry.

According to a report by The Wall Street Journal, the state legislature held a hearing on a bill named Location Shield Act in June. The bill made a proposal to cut down the practice of both collecting as well as selling the location data captured from the mobile phones of the users. Further, the bill also suggests that even law enforcement agencies will not be able to access location data without a warrant. This would ban people working in the data brokerage space and they will not be able to share location data without the permission of courts.

Smartphone data location

Smartphone location data is essentially the movement pattern of a user when she, or he, moves around anywhere with their phones. The data does not contain a name, phone number, or any other identifying information, just information about the locations a phone has been to and the route taken (along with time stamps).

However, the data also shows where the smartphone goes in the evening, and where it is kept overnight, easily giving information about a person's address or workplace. The same data can also be cross-referenced with other sets of data to gain more insight into any particular user.

According to the report, the move by the Massachusetts legislature is part of the digital privacy wave that has swept over the US. As many as ten different states have enacted different privacy laws in the absence of a coherent national legal framework.

But so far, no other state has attempted to enact a law that brings an almost complete ban on buying, selling, or sharing mobile location data with a third party. Most states require clear consent from the end-user before collecting the data and apart from a few legal restrictions, data brokers are free to sell the information.

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First Published Date: 11 Jul, 17:06 IST