New Bill Would Bar Companies from Selling GPS Data

HELENA (The UM Legislative News Service) — Montana is one of only a few states with the right to privacy enshrined in its constitution, and a bill in the Legislature would bring it into the modern age. 

Senate Bill 242, sponsored by Sen. Bryce Bennett, D-Missoula, would bar companies from selling GPS data without explicit consent. 

Bennett said his bill would prevent companies from having too much private information about their customers.

“Even in close-knit families, it’s unlikely you would know as much information about where someone is at every moment of the day and night,” Bennett said at a hearing for the bill in the Senate Judiciary Committee Friday.

The bill drew the support of the ACLU and the Montana Farmers Union.

Opponents said the bill is too vague. Carl Szabo of the tech lobby NetChoice said he took issue with a line in the bill requiring parental consent in releasing data from minors. Szabo is also a professor at George Washington University.

“One of the old adages is ‘on the internet, no one knows you’re a dog’,” Szabo said. “So the ability for a platform to identify whether the user is over 18 or a minor is essentially impossible.”

Four other opponents said the bill was “a solution in search of a problem,” which Bennett vehemently disagreed with.

“This bill is about what you do with that location data that you’ve collected, whether you are allowed to transfer to someone else, to sell to someone else without my permission,” Bennett said.

James Bradley is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association, the Montana Newspaper Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.

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