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Jessica Rosenworcel FCC

Jessica Rosenworcel was confirmed as Federal Communications Commission chair on December 7, 2021. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

44 House Dems Urge FCC, FTC to Boost Privacy Protections for Consumers' Location Data

The lawmakers lamented that "apps can harvest personal information, such as geolocation and phone identifiers, even after users denied permission for such sharing."

Brett Wilkins

Online privacy advocates on Thursday welcomed a letter by dozens of House Democrats urging the Federal Communications Commission and Federal Trade Commission to enact rules prohibiting the collection and sale of consumers' location data.

Writing to FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel—who was confirmed to the post on Tuesday—and FTC Chair Lina Khan, 44 lawmakers led by Reps. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) and Katie Porter (D-Calif.) noted that "currently, app developers are able to collect sensitive user information and sell it to interested parties for a substantial profit."

"Apps can harvest personal information, such as geolocation and phone identifiers, even after users denied permission for such sharing," the lawmakers wrote. "We are concerned that the continued, unregulated commercialization of private geolocation data compromises the safety and privacy of consumers."

"In the past, both FTC and FCC punished bad actors for failing to safeguard location data, but the agencies fell short of establishing prophylactic rules that will better protect consumers," they continued. "While we applaud the agencies' commitments to consumer privacy and safety, it is clear that more needs to be done. To that end, we ask that your agencies take… steps to better protect the safety and privacy of consumers."

The letter's signers want the FTC to:

  • Define the sale, transfer, use, or purchase of precise location data collected by an app for purposes other than the essential function of the app as an "unfair act or practice";
  • Define app developers' mislabeling of users' location data as "anonymous" as a "deceptive practice"; and
  • Enforce its regulations against companies abusing consumers' location data through its penalty authority.

Digital rights groups including Accountable Tech, Common Cause, Free Press Action Fund, and Project on Government Oversight have endorsed the lawmakers' letter, which comes amid a serious Republican challenge to the confirmation of President Joe Biden's nomination of Gigi Sohn to fill the fifth FCC commissioner seat and give Democrats a 3-2 advantage on the regulator's governing body.


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'Yeah, And?': Ocasio-Cortez Embraces GOP Freakout Over Helping Women Skirt Abortion Bans

"Republicans are mad because I am sharing this information," said Rep. Ocasio-Cortez. "Too bad!"

Julia Conley ·


WATCH LIVE: Top Meadows Aide Cassidy Hutchinson Testifies at Surprise Jan. 6 Hearing

Hutchinson, who has spent more than 20 hours in deposition with the House panel, is expected to provide more damning evidence of the role that Meadows played in Trump's coup attempt.

Kenny Stancil ·


Oxfam Condemns G7 for Leaving 'Millions to Starve' as Global Hunger Surges

"Faced with the worst hunger crisis in a generation, the G7 have simply failed to take the action that is needed," said Max Lawson of Oxfam International.

Jake Johnson ·


'Horrific': 50 Migrants Found Dead in Abandoned Trailer Truck in Texas

"We need to end Title 42 and fix our broken immigration system so these unimaginable tragedies stop happening," said Rep. Chuy García. "People fleeing violence and poverty deserve a chance at a better life."

Jake Johnson ·


Harris Says White House Not 'Discussing' Use of Federal Land for Abortion Care

Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are among the Democratic lawmakers who have expressed support for the idea as GOP-controlled states move to outlaw abortion.

Jake Johnson ·

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