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Sen. Franken Announces Report Showing Consumers Need More Info About Privacy Protections for In-Car Navigation Tech

New Findings Underscore Necessity of Sen. Franken’s Location Privacy Legislation

Monday, January 6, 2014

Click here to ready the report Sen. Al Franken requested from the Government Accountability Office that shows in-car navigation companies should provide consumers more information about how they use and share their private location data.

U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), Chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology, and the Law, announced today the release of a new report he requested from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that shows in-car navigation companies should provide consumers more information about how they use and share their private location data.

Sen. Franken said that the findings demonstrate that while companies providing in-car location services have taken concrete steps to protect their customers' privacy, more work needs to be done to ensure privacy protections for in-car navigation systems and devices, along with mapping apps. He also said that this report has encouraged him to reintroduce his location privacy legislation sometime this year. The Location Privacy Protection Act passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee with bipartisan support in December 2012.

"Modern technology now allows drivers to get turn-by-turn directions in a matter of seconds, but our privacy laws haven't kept pace with these enormous advances," said Sen. Franken. "Companies providing in-car location services are taking their customers' privacy seriously—but this report shows that Minnesotans and people across the country need much more information about how the data are being collected, what they're being used for, and how they're being shared with third parties. This report also underscores the need for me to reintroduce and pass my location privacy bill. It's just commonsense that all companies should get their customers' clear permission before they collect or share their location information."

To read the GAO report, click here.

The report evaluated privacy protections provided by in-car navigations systems (e.g. OnStar), portable navigation devices (e.g. TomToms and Garmins), and mapping apps (e.g. Google Maps). Ultimately, GAO found that while companies take various positive steps to protect the location information of drivers, they need to be more forthcoming to consumers about the data they collect, how they use them, and if and why they share them with third parties.

Sen. Franken originally requested the report after he convened a hearing on protecting mobile privacy in May 2011, during which experts testified about the benefits and dangers of using location data. That September, Sen. Franken successfully pressed OnStar to reverse a privacy policy change that would have allowed that company to continue tracking former subscribers even after they discontinued OnStar services. Sen. Franken's letter to OnStar can be found here. Later that month, after receiving the letter, OnStar reversed that policy change.

Protecting Minnesotans' and Americans' consumer rights and privacy has been a priority for Sen. Franken since he came to the Senate. In addition to working to pass his location privacy legislation, Sen. Franken has pushed several companies on the privacy implications of new technologies. In September, he raised privacy questions about Apple's new iPhone fingerprint technology and also pressed Facebook to reconsider the potential expansion of its facial recognition program. After Facebook proceeded with this expansion, Sen. Franken successfully pressed the Department of Commerce to convene privacy advocates and industry stakeholders to examine the privacy implications of facial recognition technology.


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