NYC bill would ban the sale of cellphone location data

NYC bill would ban the sale of cellphone location data
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A bill introduced Tuesday in New York City would ban the sale of an individual’s cellphone location data to third parties.

If passed, it is believed New York City would be the first to ban the sale of geolocation data of cellphone users, according to the New York Times.

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New York City Council member and bill sponsor Justin Brannan (D)  tweeted the link to The Times’ story Tuesday, writing that “If DC won’t ban this dangerous breach of privacy, NYC can lead the way, and protect people in the process.”

“My bill would make it illegal for cell companies and mobile apps to share your location info without your explicit permission,” he added. 

As Brannan noted, there is no current federal bill protecting user’s cellphone location data. Third parties are free to buy the data from cellphone companies and use it to their benefit.

The bill would also apply to app developers that share location data.

“The average person has no idea they are vulnerable to this,” Brannan told the Times. “We are concerned by the fact that someone can sign up for cell service and their data can wind up in the hands of five different companies.”

San Francisco passed a similar measure in 2018 that required companies to publicly disclose to customers their data sharing practices, but it stopped short of banning the sale of location data to third parties.

New York City Council’s Speaker Corey Johnson (D), told the Times that he is open to the bill and exploring solutions to the problem’s it addresses.

“We live in an age where people’s private information is being sold to the highest bidder, and it is important for us to think of 21st-century fixes,” Johnson said.

The bill would impose fines on companies that break the rules ranging from $1,000 per violation to $10,000 per day per user for multiple violations. Additionally, the bill if passed would give New York City residents the ability to sue if their location data was shared without their knowledge and consent.