Geolocation is the term used to detect and record the exact location, in latitude and longitude, of where a signal-emitting device is located. Although these devises are usually cell phones, geolocation information can also be collected by using IP addresses and Wi-Fi signal strength. Many marketing companies track a consumer’s geolocation when they are near stores to send ads selling products or services. About a year ago, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) settled a complaint about a free mobile phone flashlight app which had been downloaded by tens of millions of consumers. This app also secretly collected and transmitted user’s personal information, including geolocation and unique device identifiers, to third parties. The FTC barred this company from misrepresenting its data collection, use and disclosure practices and required users to “opt in” before their information is collected and used. Critics say this is an example of how far marketers will go in their quest for consumer’s personal information and how important it is to protect our right to privacy. Geolocation technology has also been used by law enforcement agencies which have placed GPS tracking devices on suspect’s cars without a warrant. Police agencies say this is no big deal because they already receive cell phone tracking data from telephone companies. They claim this tool is needed to fight crime. Privacy advocates worry geolocation technology could be used to analyze the movements of whole populations in search of “suspicious” behavior.

Pending Legislation:
S.237 - Geolocational Privacy and Surveillance Act

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Poll Opening Date
May 21, 2020
Poll Closing Date
May 27, 2020

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