Jul 25 2019

New York City (NYC) Council members are proposing unprecedented action to curb location data sharing. The City Council bill to ban the sharing of cellphone users' geo-location data to marketers was presented for debate after a report earlier this year showed at least 75 companies receiving anonymous but precise location data tracking up to 200 million mobile devices in the U.S.

The NYC Council is considering legislation (Int. No. 1632) that would prohibit telecommunication carriers and mobile applications from sharing a user’s location data to third parties, where the data is collected while the mobile communication device is in NYC. The bill excludes from this prohibition location data shared to provide user requested services.

The bill comes with strong enforcement mechanisms. The NYC Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications would have enforcement authority over Int. No. 1632. Each instance of an application or telecommunications carrier sharing location data constitutes a separate violation, each of which is subject to a civil penalty of $1,000. However, an entity that commits multiple violations on the same day would be capped at a civil penalty of $10,000.

The bill also provides a private right of action for customers whose location data has been unlawfully shared. Successful plaintiffs would be able to recover statutory damages of $1,000 per violation (also capped at $10,000 per day) and reasonable attorney’s fees and costs.

Int. No. 1632 was introduced on July 23, 2019 and referred to the Committee on Technology. If this bill passes, businesses would be required to carve out NYC location data. Further, vendor contracts with telecommunication companies and mobile applications should include explicit affirmations to not share location data from NYC’s five boroughs.