Bill introduced to prevent unauthorized sale of consumer geo-location information

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

SACRAMENTO - AB 523 was introduced by Assemblywoman Jacqui Irwin (D – Thousand Oaks) in response to the continued misuse of geo-location data of mobile phone subscribers. Investigations and media reports over the last year have chronicled how large mobile telecommunications providers have sold protected geo-location data of their subscribers to vendors, which was subsequently repackaged and sold to bounty hunters, bail bondsmen, and any member of the public willing to pay a nominal fee.

“The sale of your phone’s geo-location is a fundamental violation of a subscriber’s privacy,” said Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin. “Law enforcement must obtain a warrant under both state and federal law to access your geo-location, an appropriate safeguard that recognizances the sensitive nature of a person’s current and past location. The real-world implications for personal safety are frightening when this information is shared with non-law enforcement. We must provide Californians with the tools to protect themselves, especially as the Federal Communications Commission fails to enforce federal protections.”

While the largest mobile phone providers have verbally committed to stop the practice of selling the geo-location information of its subscribers and investigate the conduct of existing vendor contracts earlier in 2018, reports this year of their failure to do so, makes their more recent re-commitments to discontinue the practices seem like more empty promises. AB 523 will provide Californians with the ability to keep these large companies and their executives to their word and ensure Californians’ geo-location is not sold or shared without their consent.