This week’s main event for tech policy had to be the House Commerce Committee’s hearing on “The Collection and Use of Location Information for Commercial Purposes.”
The upshot of the hearing is that Congress is paying attention to technologies like GPS and other geolocation devices and how these technologies may impact consumer privacy.
Perhaps the best part of the hearing came during Chairman Bobby Rush’s opening statement when he said “Yesterday there was Facebook, and in the not-to-distant future we will be encountering something more akin to a ‘Placebook’.” Yeah not a great pun but then anyone who watches C-Span knows that members of Congress aren’t known for their sense of humor–with the notable exceptions of Rep. Barney Frank and now Senator Al Franken. (Actually Franken has been pretty dead serious since he’s been in the Senate.)
Smartphone aplications like Foursquare, Brightkite and Gowalla are becoming increasingly popular and the check-in model is increasingly in use. What lawmakers are concerned with are what are the secondary uses of the location data being collected. Website pleaserobme.com pointed out how publication of geolocation data can be harmful to consumers.
Members of the committee agreed that specific location information should be considered as sensitive personally identifiable information and Rep. Rick Boucher, the main author of a soon-to-be introduced comprehensive privacy bill announced that location information will be included in the bill. What is unsure is what the requirements will be for that data. Whether disclosure of what data is collected and how it is used is enough or additional requirements may be imposed.
Location data can be extremely useful in the real estate context. What do you think about the prospect of privacy regulations imposed on the collection and use of this data?
Photo via Flickr: mag3737