Government Accountability Office, Mobile Device Location Data: Additional Federal Actions Could Help Protect Consumer Privacy (GAO-12-903) (Sept. 2012) (full-text).


Smartphones can provide services based on consumers' location, raising potential privacy risks if companies use or share location data without consumers' knowledge. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) enforces prohibitions against unfair and deceptive practices, and the NTIA sets national telecommunications policy.

The GAO was asked to examine this issue. The GAO reviewed (1) how mobile industry companies collect location data, why they share these data, and how this affects consumers; (2) actions private sector entities have taken to protect consumers' privacy and ensure security of location data; and (3) actions federal agencies have taken to protect consumer privacy and what additional federal efforts, if any, are needed.

The GAO recommends that the NTIA work with stakeholders to outline specific goals, milestones, and performance measures for its process to develop industry codes of conduct and that the FTC consider issuing guidance on mobile companies' appropriate actions to protect location data privacy.

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