Senator Al Franken’s Privacy Bill Is Approved By Senate Committee

    December 14, 2012

We brought you word earlier this month that Sen. Al Franken was trying his hand at passing a privacy bill again. The Location Privacy Protection Act would require any and all app makers to request permission to track users before being able to do so. His first attempt at passage in 2011 failed, but it’s looking a bit more optimistic this time around.

The Hill reports that the Senate Judiciary Committee voted in favor of Franken’s bill on Thursday. Now the bill can be brought up in the senate for a vote later this month before the current Congress ends at the beginning of January. Franken argues that the bill is not only important to protect an individual’s privacy, but also to protect the privacy of children who are increasingly using connected mobile devices:

“I believe that Americans have the fundamental right to control who can track their location, and whether or not that information can be given to third parties. But right now, companies – some legitimate, some sleazy – are collecting your or your child’s location and selling it to ad companies or who knows who else.”

Franken’s bill appears to have made it through committee without much change from its original text. Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa introduced an amendment that would have required state attorneys general to be transparent about hiring outside counsels, but it was defeated by committee democrats. Still, Grassley approved the bill, but remains concerned that its limits on tracking could hurt “commercial innovations.”

Other members on the committee expressed some concern with language in the bill, but have said that they’re willing to work with Franken to improve the bill before it goes up for vote in the Senate. Franken will also have to work with his colleagues in the House if he wants to ensure passage this year, but the current negotiations over the “Fiscal Cliff” will most likely push Franken’s bill to next year.

Regardless, it’s an encouraging sign to at least see a committee forward a digital privacy bill. There’s not enough legislation that addresses the current privacy concerns that have crept up with the advent of the Internet and mobile devices. Franken’s bill doesn’t address all of the concerns, but it’s a good start.