OVERNIGHT TECH: Franken calls for location privacy law after GAO study

The lede: Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) reiterated calls Monday for a location privacy law, pointing to a recent Government Accountability Office report that found a need for clearer privacy practices for in-car navigation companies.

Some companies operating location-based car devices are operating with “unclear” privacy practices that “could make it difficult for consumers to understand the privacy risks that may exist,” according to the report.

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The office, which acts as Congress’s investigative arm, surveyed 10 auto manufacturers, device companies and app developers and found that all collected location data to offer consumers’ local services. They sometimes shared the data with other companies, though many had broad or vague disclosure statements.

“Without clear disclosures, risks increase that data may be collected or shared for purposes that the consumer is not expecting or might not have agreed to,” the GAO said.

Franken, who requested the study, said that the report showed the need for him to reintroduce a bill strengthening privacy measures for location-based services. The Location Privacy Protection Act passed through the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2012 but never received a floor vote. 

“Companies providing in-car location services are taking their customers’ privacy seriously—but this report shows that Minnesotans and people across the country need much more information about how the data are being collected, what they’re being used for, and how they’re being shared with third parties,” he said in a statement. “It’s just commonsense that all companies should get their customers’ clear permission before they collect or share their location information.”

Millions lost in federal telecom transition: Lawmakers lambasted the General Services Administration (GSA) over a second GAO report out on Monday, which blamed complicated acquisitions and poor project planning for “cost increases and missed savings” in the government’s attempt to switch to new telecommunications contracts.

Delays to the transition ballooned the General Services Administration’s estimates by more than $66 million. Another $329 million could have been saved had federal agencies switched to the new contracts in 2010, when the transition was originally planned to end.

“Such mismanagement and waste is simply unacceptable, especially at a time of increasing debts and limited resources,” said Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), head of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, in a statement. 

Former FCC officials to testify: Former Federal Communications Commission chairmen will appear before the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Communications later this month, the committee said Monday. The former officials will testify on Jan. 15 to discuss the Committee’s endeavor to update the Telecommunications Act.

The committee announced last month that it will update that law — first written as the Communications Act in 1934 and updated in 1996 — to bring regulations of the telecommunications and Internet industries into the 21st century.

FTC commissioner talks patents: Commissioner of the Federal Trade Commission Maureen Ohlhausen warned about the complexity of patent reform during a Twitter chat on Monday. Late last year, the House passed the Innovation Act, authored by Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), which would reform the patent litigation process to prevent “patent troll” lawsuits, or lawsuits based on vague and broad patents brought in the hopes of getting the defendant to settle rather than go to court. The Senate Judiciary Committee is currently examining a bill from Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.).

At the same time, the FTC is conducting an investigation into the companies bringing these patent troll suits. When asked if the agency thinks Congress “is rushing to act before enough data is gathered,” the Republican commissioner responded: “This is a very complex area, we need to take the time to get it right.”

T-Mobile, Verizon reach spectrum deal: T-Mobile announced Monday that it is purchasing 700 MHz spectrum licenses from Verizon for $2.365 billion and the transfer of higher-band spectrum licenses. Low-band spectrum, such as the 700 MHz band, is better for urban and rural areas, because the waves can travel over greater distances and through buildings.

“These transactions represent our biggest move yet in a series of initiatives that are rapidly expanding our already lightning fast network and improving its performance across the country,” T-Mobile CEO John Legere said in a statement. “We will continue to find ways to advance our customers’ network experience just as our bold Un-carrier moves have shaken up the wireless industry to benefit consumers.”

T-Mobile said it expects to deal to be completed in mid-2014, pending approval from the FCC and the Department of Justice.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

AT&T introduced a new program Monday that would have websites and applications pay for users’ data consumption.

Google has announced a partnership with four leading car companies and a global technology firm to make it easier to use Android devices while behind the wheel.

The social network Snapchat has hired lobbyists in Washington for the first time.

Cybersecurity is the top threat to U.S. national security, according to a poll of defense leaders conducted by Defense News.

Former Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski joined a major private equity firm on Monday.

 

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