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MAPPS Advocacy on Precise Geolocation Information Highlighted in Analysis of Filed Comments to the FTC

Posted By Nick Palatiello, Thursday, March 31, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, June 20, 2012
The Information Law Group has been monitoring privacy regulations at the State and Federal level, including the recent draft from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). MAPPS, along with other geospatial associations and private firms, submitted comments addressing the use of "precise geolocation data". MAPPS is concerned with this term as it "would result in a number of unintended consequences by severely limiting information collected by the geospatial community".

The Information Law Group has released their findings in a post titled What's Next for the FTC's Proposed Privacy Framework? 

Within the five points made by the group, Point #5 – FTC will define 'Precise Geolocation Data' in its Next Framework.

The independent group focused on the response from geospatial associations and private firms that submitted comments on this threat. MAPPS was diligent through this blog and outreach to the geospatial community about the potential threat this could pose to the profession. This was identified in the post:

"This serves to highlight how closely the reports of agencies with regulatory and enforcement authority, like the FTC, are scrutinized by groups and associations. More likely the FTC's inclusion of "precise geolocation data” was a placeholder nod to location-based tracking and information increasingly sent out by GPS-enabled smartphones. But words matter. Definitions define. And entities are wary of any governmental action that could effect their industry."

This is only the beginning to what is sure to be evolving debate at the Federal and State level with regards to consumer and internet privacy. MAPPS will continue to help educate officials about the benefits and broad use of geospatial and geolocation technologies.  This is noted at the end of the post, the broad concerns of our profession will be subject to scrutiny from a lack of understanding:

"In short, expect the FTC to address geospatial and geolocation issues further within any broader online privacy framework moving forward, though as noted above, the State Attorneys General, like the FTC, appear to have completely missed the broader concerns of this group. "

In addition, MAPPS mobilized geospatial organizations including COGO, FGDC and The Centre for Spatial Law and Policy (Spatial Law) to submit comments to the FTC. The geospatial market "flooded” both the FTC and FCC with comments. MAPPS will continue to monitor the FTC’s recommendations and update the community.

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