GAO Urges Federal Actions to Protect Mobile Device Users’ Privacy

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On October 11, the GAO released a report on its examination of how the mobile industry collects location data and the resulting impact on consumers. According to the report, privacy advocates expressed concerns that consumers are generally unaware of how location data is used by third-parties and that consumers could be subject to increased risk of surveillance by law enforcement, identity theft, and threats to personal safety. The GAO examined how companies have applied practices recommended by industry associations and privacy advocates to protect consumers’ privacy while using mobile location data. The report reviews actions taken by federal agencies to provide consumer education and develop industry codes of conduct. The GAO recommends, among other things, that NTIA work with stakeholders to develop industry codes of conduct and that the FTC consider issuing guidance on mobile companies’ appropriate actions to protect location data privacy.