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New York City could ban the unauthorized sale of phone location data

New York City could ban the unauthorized sale of phone location data


City council taking up a bill on the issue

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Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

New York City might effectively ban the controversial practice of selling consumers’ phone location data, if a new bill proposed this week passes the city council.

Fines up to $10,000

The bill, believed to be the first of its kind, would require wireless carriers and apps to get explicit permission before giving third parties geolocation data collected within the city. Under the plan, the city’s Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications would be tasked with enforcing the bill, and could levy steep penalties on offenders. A violator could be fined $1,000 for each violation, or $10,000 for each person’s data shared, if multiple violations happened on the same day.

The bill will move to committee hearings ahead of a wider council vote.

Businesses that sell geolocation information have faced new scrutiny in the past year, as multiple investigations have spotlighted how the sensitive data is widely available, often without consumers noticing. Still, while the Federal Communications Commission has said it’s investigating the issue, there’s been little federal or local action.

“We as a city have a chance to lead the charge on this,” Councilman Justin Brannan, who introduced the bill, said in a statement. “If the federal government won’t ban this dangerous breach of people’s privacy, then we have to. I look forward to working with my colleagues and passing this bill into law, so we can send the message that invasive and nonconsensual business practices like these won’t fly in New York.”