An anti-cyberstalking bill sponsored by Minnesota Democrat Al Franken sailed through the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday, despite technical reservations expressed by Republicans and Democrats alike.
The bill targets mobile phone apps that can secretly transmit users' location data without their knowledge. Critics say they can be used to facilitate stalking of women and girls, particularly battered women in abusive relationships.
The problem is that the same location data technology underlies popular apps like Yelp, Google Maps and Twitter.
Franken wants to make it a crime to intentionally operate an app to facilitate stalking. He also wants to close loopholes that allow smart phone, app and wireless companies offering Internet services to collect and share location data without customers’ permission. Industry groups say the necessary share notifications could render some apps all but useless.
Though the committee passed the bill on to the full Senate, some members said the bill will need to be refined in the next session of Congress.
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