Smartphones, smartphone apps, websites, and other connected devices (e.g., “wearables”) increasingly request that consumer’s provide their geo-location information. Geo-location information can refer to general information about a consumer’s location, such as their city, state, or zip code, or precise information that pinpoints the consumer’s location to a few feet, such as their GPS coordinates.
Organizations request geo-location information for a variety of reasons. For example, many apps – such as transportation or delivery services – require geo-location in order to provide services that are requested by the consumer. Other apps – such as mapping programs, coupon programs, or weather programs – require geo-location information in order to provide consumers with useful information. Because such information has become intertwined, in many cases, with products and services some organizations require the user to ‘Accept’ or ‘Agree’ to the collection of geo-location information as a condition to using a device, application or website.
Although there is currently no federal statute that expressly regulates the use, collection, or sharing of geo-location data, the FTC has taken the position that precise geo-location information is a form of “sensitive” personal information and has suggested that a failure to reasonably secure such information, or a failure to adequately disclose the collection or sharing of such information may violate the FTCA’s general prohibition against unfair or deceptive practices.1 In addition, Congress, and state legislatures, have considered several proposals that would expressly regulate the data.
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