Thursday, May 5, 2011

California Bill Would Regulate 'Precise Geolocation Information'

A bill currently working its way through the California legislature could result in the regulation of the collection, use or transfer of 'precise geolocation information' by companies that are doing business in California.

SB-761 is similar to proposed legislation currently before Congress in that it gives California attorney general the authority to develop regulations that would require strict notice provisions and opt-out consent with regards to 'covered information'. The wording in the bill is somewhat convoluted, but it appears that covered information would include an 'individual's . . . precise geolocation information and any information about the invidual's activities and relationships associated with geolocation'. Sec. 3(A)(i). The term 'precise geolocation information' is not further defined. According to this article, the California State Senate Judiciary Committee voted to move the bill to the Appropriations Committee.

It is not uncommon for privacy advocates to push for states to implement laws and policies if they do not believe that things are moving quickly enough on a national level. It has also been an effective tool to get Congress to move more quickly on matters. California is often a favorable state to try to initiate such activities.

You will remember that a judge in California recently held that a zip code was 'personally identifiable information'. So one wonders how broadly 'precise geolocation information' might be defined by state authorities. Moreover, 50 different definitions of 'precise geolocation information' and associated privacy regimes would be a difficult environment for geospatial companies to operate in.