Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) has introduced the Mobile Device Privacy Act, which would require wireless phone manufacturers, carriers, and app developers to provide information to consumers about monitoring software that may be present on their devices.
Companies would be obliged to inform consumers about the existence of monitoring software, as well as what type of data is collected, who will receive the data, and how it will be used. These disclosures would be required prior to the purchase of a device or installation of an app.
Consumer consent must be obtained before the monitoring software begins collecting and transmitting information, and the party receiving the personal information must have policies in place to keep it secure.
The bill would establish a private right of action for violations of the law and establish an enforcement regime for the FTC, the Federal Communications Commission, and state attorneys general.
“Just because a mobile device is handheld doesn’t mean it should hand over personal information to third parties without permission,” Rep. Markey said in a statement. “Consumers should know and have the choice to say no to software on their mobile devices that is transmitting their personal and sensitive information. . . . This legislation will provide greater transparency into the transmission of consumers’ personal information and empower consumers to say no to such transmission.”
Rep. Markey said the legislation was inspired by last year’s Carrier IQ scandal, when news reports revealed that the company’s software – installed on millions of smartphones and mobile devices – tracked keystrokes and relayed the information without the user’s knowledge or consent.
Groups such as Free Press are backing the bill, while the Software & Information Industry Association said the legislation is “the wrong way to go.” “It would impose rigid privacy rules on the mobile industry that can only lead to stagnation and a loss of innovative dynamism,” Mark MacCarthy, the group’s vice president for public policy, wrote in a blog post.
To read the Mobile Device Privacy Act, click here.
Why it matters: The intersection of mobile devices and privacy has caught the attention of regulators and lawmakers like Rep. Markey. California Attorney General Kamala Harris recently reached an agreement with the operators of six mobile app platforms – including Apple and Google – under which the companies agreed to improve privacy protections for consumers. In addition, multiple federal agencies, including the Federal Trade Commission, the Federal Communications Commission, and the Commerce Department, are currently addressing the issue.