Right to Privacy: Why Al Franken's Bill Would Make Certain iPhone Apps Legal


Normally, I detest almost everything that Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.) stands for. In the conservative community, often his name is associated with demonic influence, or worse. But he's proposed some legislation that is both intriguing and perplexing: he has introduced a privacy bill that requires companies to obtain a consumer's consent before monitoring or publicizing their location. Additionally, the bill bans apps that allow for the covert monitoring of a person's location.

Franken was said to have introduced that particular ban because he was concerned about the potential of these types of apps promoting domestic abuse or stalking. He also stated that he had been working almost a year and a half on this bill, working with the companies that create these kinds of products in order to better understand the issue.

I was shocked when I heard this was a bill that Al Franken was bringing into the Senate. He doesn't seem like the kind of man to take the issue of the internet and mobile applications so seriously. But apparently, this isn't the first time that he's proposed such a bill. Last year, he had attempted a similar piece of legislation, but couldn't garner the support needed for it to be passed. Even this year's chances look slim, particularly because of the impending fiscal cliff. Not to mention the fact that "Democrats expressed concern that the amendment would ... violate the principle of federalism," according to Brendan Sasso of Hillicon Valley.

But this discussion is an interesting one. It hearkens back to the Supreme Court decision on United States v. Jones, in which it was determined that the FBI and local police need warrants for GPS monitoring systems on criminals.

In light of that decision, why on earth would we allow the general public (including unsavory individuals) access to such private information that the police are required to have warrants for? Al Franken's bill makes a great deal of sense to me. Is it the most pressing issue of our time? Probably not. Is it important? Absolutely.