Make Location Data Sharing Opt-In, Orders European Commission Panel

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ADOTAS – Apple and Google’s appearance in front of the U.S. Senate to explain location data handling following reports of misuse sounded like a real snooze. Across the Atlantic, however, the European Union data protection advisory panel actually took some action and advised the European Commission to consider location data the same as personal data.

The Financial Times reported that the recommendation from the Article 29 Working Party (sounds socialist…) is the first step in drafting legislation on mobile location data and could be added to the EU’s e-Privacy Directive, which is supposed to make cookies crumble across Europe come May 25 even if no country within the union is prepared to implement the law.

In addition to stringent rules on how location data is collected and stored, the panel recommended that any and every location-based service — whether offered by the OS, telecom or app-maker — be required to first ask permission from the user to employ such location data. This would also require a long explanation about what exactly the data will and could be used for.

“Since smartphones and tablet computers are inextricably linked to their owner, the movement patterns of the devices provide a very intimate insight into the private life of the owners,” the panel wrote. “One of the great risks is that the owners are unaware they transmit their location, and to whom.”

Industry players are making the age-old argument that this is a hassle and will hinder development, but the opt-in element sounds pretty reasonable, and somewhat akin to what Google currently provides on its Android OS. Basically location-based services would provide users with a long and winding agreement about location data-sharing before letting them use the service. And like user agreements for most software, the majority of consumers would (sorta) skim it and hit “agree.”

By the way, I think iTunes has claimed rights on my firstborn — suckers. You go deal with the little brat, Steve Jobs.

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