Mobile Privacy May Gain New Federal Legislative Protections

This week, Rep. Edward Markey raised the curtain on what could amount to federal legislation that adds substantive mobile privacy safeguards to the mobile phone user population of the United States.

On Tuesday, Markey released a discussion draft of the proposed Mobile Device Privacy Act, which, if enacted, would obligate wireless operators and their partners to “notify subscribers if they employ mobile analytics measurement tools like the controversial Carrier IQ.”

As MMW previously reported, the Carrier IQ software is a rootkit that is installed at a carrier’s request on mobile phones and sparks privacy concerns because it monitors and logs user activity.

Markey says the pending legislation would require full disclosure of mobile phone monitoring software when a consumer buys a new mobile phone. The carrier, manufacturer or operating system provider must similarly notify consumers if they install such software after the device was purchased.

Other key protections introduced by the bill include:

  • Third party receiving the personal information must have policies in place to secure the information.
  • Agreements on transmission to third parties must be filed at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
  • Outline an enforcement regime for the FTC and FCC, along with State Attorney General enforcement and a private right of action.

“Consumers have the right to know and to say no to the presence of software on their mobile devices that can collect and transmit their personal and sensitive information,” Rep. Markey says. “While consumers rely on their phones, their phones relay all sorts of information about them, often without their knowledge or consent… Today I am releasing draft legislation to provide greater transparency into the transmission of consumers’ personal information and empower consumers to say no to such transmission.”