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Written by: Mike Yang

The state of Illinois is about to put into law a bill making it illegal to track a user’s location via their phone without the consent of the user. The Illinois Geolocation Privacy Protection Act (HB 3449) was passed by the senate and house in Illinois and is expected to be signed by Gov. Bruce Rauner in the coming weeks.

The bill, introduced by Rep. Ann Williams, would require private entities collecting geolocation data to first obtain the person’s “affirmative express consent” after providing individuals with “clear, prominent, and accurate notice”. According to law firm Sidley Austin LLP, this means a notice “that: (1) informs the person that his or her geolocation information will be collected, used, or disclosed; (2) informs the person ‘in writing’ of the specific purposes for the collection, use, or disclosure; and (3) provides the person with a hyperlink or other easy access to the geolocation information collected, used or disclosed.”

This isn’t the first major privacy bill that Illinois will have passed. Illinois has an extremely strong set of laws now that will protect the privacy of users including the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act, which prevents companies from using ocular or facial scanning, voice, or fingerprints without prior written consent from the user. The Electronic Privacy Information Center has praised that law, calling it “one of the toughest in the United States”. Illinois also has the Right to Know Act which requires companies to inform customers what information has been collected and shared with third parties.

When reached for comment, Rep. Williams said that the “bill is a basic, but long overdue, measure to ensure that consumers have notice when their very personal geolocation data is being collected, and for what purpose it is being used.”

“As technology continues to evolve, so does the ability to mine and aggregate personal data for profit. It is imperative that privacy protections are included along the way. Unfortunately, since Congress rolled back FCC’s privacy protections on the federal level in March, it’s now up to the states to ensure consumers’ data privacy is protected. I’m committed to joining partners such as the ACLU and others to ensure that happens in Illinois,” Williams said.

While many states are considering enacting their own location-privacy acts, they have not been completely successful. Right now, there are some major efforts in Massachusetts as well as California currently under consideration that would further consumer privacy.

CC By license image from James Cridland