Illinois Geolocation Privacy Protection Act Vetoed By Governor Rauner

King & Spalding

The Geolocation Privacy Protection Act, which passed the Illinois Senate and General Assembly earlier this year, was vetoed by Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner on September 22, 2017. The bill (HB-3449) was the first of its kind to reach the governor of any state. With the veto, the only option left to enact the law is an override vote in the state legislature.

The Geolocation Privacy Protection Act would have required internet companies operating in the state of Illinois to inform consumers of what geolocation data they are collecting, why they are collecting it, and who is receiving it. The bill was particularly concerned with mobile apps that collect geolocation data without a consumer’s knowledge and then send that data to third-party companies for a profit.

Although the bill sought to require businesses and other private entities to obtain express consent from consumers in most circumstances, companies would have retained the right to collect, use, store, or disclose geolocation information without receiving consent in the following circumstances: (i) to allow a parent or legal guardian to locate an unemancipated minor child; (ii) to allow a court-appointed guardian to locate a legally incapacitated person; (iii) for the provision of fire, medical, public safety, or other emergency services; or (iv) for the limited purpose of providing storage, security, or authentication services.

Advocates of the Geolocation Privacy Protection Act described it as a moderate, but necessary, measure because federal law does not provide clear geolocation privacy protection; rather, the Federal Trade Commission has issued only general guidance on the subject.

But Governor Rauner disagreed, describing the proposed measure as burdensome “red tape” that would “result in job loss across the state without materially improving privacy protections for Illinoisans or making devices and their apps safer for children.”  Believing that the bill would have created a redundant layer of app notifications on electronic devices, Governor Rauner said, “The addition of this policy to Illinois’ existing burden of red tape will hurt Illinois’ growing reputation as a destination for innovation-based job creation.”

The internet industry applauded Governor Rauner’s decision. “The internet industry thanks Governor Rauner for vetoing this harmful, duplicative bill. This legislation would have created costly and disruptive requirements for any website or app collecting location information in Illinois, without better protecting consumers,” said Dustin Brighton, Internet Association Vice President of State Government Affairs. “By eliminating the disruptions and redundancies that were part of this bill, we will allow one of the state’s fastest growing industries to succeed,” said Carl Szabo, Vice President and General Counsel for NetChoice.

Privacy advocates, in contrast, have shown strong disfavor toward Governor Rauner’s decision. “By vetoing this legislation, Governor Rauner signals to all Illinoisans that their privacy rights aren’t as important as big business profits,” said Digital Privacy Alliance (a Chicago-based non-profit organization) Co-Founder and Board Member Peter Hanna. Joseph Jerome, policy counsel for the Center for Democracy & Technology, a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit organization focused on online privacy protection, said “Geolocation information is very sensitive and can quickly identify individual people. . . . The strange opposition to this bill is frankly shocking, particularly in light of the fact that it doesn’t [allow individual consumers to sue over violations]. It’s a pretty limited bill.”

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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