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A bipartisan group of senators Oct. 25 urged the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice to investigate the proliferation of mobile phone applications that allow people to stalk others.
The so-called “stalking apps” are designed to run secretly on a victim's phone and are often marketed as being “undetectable,” the senators said in a letter to the agencies.
“Stalking apps are dangerous,” they said. “We ask that you quickly determine if they are also illegal. If so, we ask that the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission use their full force to investigate and prosecute those behind the development and marketing of these products for illegal stalking.”
The letter was signed by several members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, including Sens. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn).
Based on 2006 data, the Bureau of Justice Statistics has estimated that more than 26,000 persons are victims of GPS stalking annually, including by cell phone, the letter noted.
The senators cited a specific case involving a St. Louis County, Minn., woman who was tracked by her abuser through her smartphone.
The example was drawn from testimony submitted by the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women and the National Network to End Domestic Violence to the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology, and the Law, which is chaired by Franken, according to the letter. In May, the subcommittee held a hearing on protecting mobile privacy.
Franken has since introduced legislation (S. 1223) that would require mobile device service providers to get prior consent from customers before collecting or sharing their “geolocation” data.
The letter is available at http://franken.senate.gov/files/letter/111024_letter_DOJ_stalking_apps.pdf.
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