Foursquare Head Wants Stricter Laws Around Location Data

Foursquare Leader Wants More Regulation In Location Data, Citing Numerous Abuses

The CEO of Foursquare, a location data company, wrote an op-ed piece in the New York Times Wednesday (Oct. 16), saying, “It’s time for Congress to regulate the industry.”

“There are no formal rules for what is ethical — or even legal — in the location data business,” Jeff Glueck wrote. “We could all take a Hippocratic oath for data science (as in medicine: “First do no harm”), and hope that living by such an oath would curb abuses. But even in the best of circumstances, that oath is voluntary.”

Glueck said that phone apps should not be able to access customer data without saying specifically how it will be used.

“Why, for example, should a flashlight app have your location data?” he asked.

He said he wants a law similar to the GDPR in Europe, or California’s newly passed privacy law, that would allow for a larger sense of exactly what a company will do with the data, and give customers the option to opt out.

“Permission to collect or share data should be spelled-out in plain English, not buried within terms and conditions,” Glueck wrote. “These permission pop-ups must explain concisely how data will be used and whether it will be shared with partners. Lawmakers must also require apps that are collecting data to make it easy for users to opt-out at any time (under the condition that they won’t get personalized content as a result). Consumers, not companies, should control the process.”

The CEO said he doesn’t want to see anything in the future that allows advertisers or government agencies to track a person’s full location trail, with exact places and times, without safeguards in place.

“There’s no good reason that companies won’t be able to comply with reasonable regulation,” he said. “Comprehensive regulation will support future innovation, weed out the bad companies and earn the public trust.”


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