Legislation requires disclosure of presence of monitoring software, express consent for transmission of information to third parties in wake of Carrier IQ software concerns

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Consumers should be in control of their personal information, including if and when their mobile devices are transmitting data to third parties, says Congressman Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.). Rep. Markey, co-Chair of the Bi-Partisan Congressional Privacy Caucus, today released H.R. 6377, “The Mobile Device Privacy Act”, legislation that would require companies to disclose to consumers the capability to monitor telephone usage, as well as require express consent of the consumer prior to monitoring. Media stories last year reported that that Carrier IQ software installed on millions of smart phones and mobile devices were tracking every keystroke of users and sending the information back to the software company without user knowledge or permission. Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) is an original co-sponsor of the legislation.

“Just because a mobile device is hand held doesn’t mean it should hand over personal information to third parties without permission,” said Rep. Markey, a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and former chairman of the Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet. “Consumers should know and have the choice to say no to software on their mobile devices that is transmitting their personal and sensitive information. This is especially true for parents of children and teens, the fastest growing group of smartphone users. This legislation will provide greater transparency into the transmission of consumers’ personal information and empower consumers to say no to such transmission. I look forward to working with my colleagues to pass this important consumer protection legislation.”
A copy of the legislation can be found HERE.

The “Mobile Device Privacy Act” protects consumers by requiring:

  • Disclosure of mobile telephone monitoring when a consumer buys a mobile phone; after sale, if the carrier, manufacturer, or operating system later installs monitoring software; and if a consumer downloads an app and that app contains monitoring software
  • The disclosure includes the fact that the monitoring software has been installed on the phone, the types of information that are collected, the identity of the parties to which the information is transmitted, and how such information will be used
  • Consumer consent before monitoring software begins collecting and transmitting information
  • The party receiving the personal information must have policies in place to secure the information
  • Agreements on information transmission must be filed at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
  • An enforcement regime for the FTC and FCC, along with State AG enforcement and a private right of action

“Consumers deserve to know what’s happening behind the scenes on their mobile phones,” said Free Press President and CEO, Craig Aaron. “Companies with no relationship to the wireless customer should not be given a free pass to collect and sell personal information under a veil of secrecy. This bill is a common sense solution to privacy concerns that all consumers worry about. We wholeheartedly support this measure and look forward to working with the Congressman and his staff to help move this bill forward.”

Last year, Rep. Markey asked the FTC to investigate the practices of the Carrier IQ software company as a possible unfair or deceptive act or practice.