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Aldermen propose cellphone privacy awareness act

Blocking robocalls on your cell phone using incorrect shortcuts can result in calls to 911 or State Police. | Sun Times File Photo

Is there a person alive who doesn’t already know that cellphones can be used to track the owner’s daily movements, internet interests and buying habits?

Two Chicago aldermen think so. Which is why they want to mandate Chicago retailers to spell out the specific threat to cellphone buyers.

At Wednesday’s City Council meeting, Aldermen Edward Burke (14th) and Leslie Hairston (5th) introduced a “Mobile Phone Privacy Awareness Act.”

It would mandate retailers to post signs and provide customer notices warning consumers that the phones they buy and often become addicted to using are equipped with “location services” that can be disabled.

Retailers would also need to warn consumers that data “could intentionally or unintentionally become available to third-parties without your consent with examples including disclosure through a legal subpoena process or illicit hacking activity.”

“As technology permeates our lives, so do concerns over the privacy protections afforded to Chicagoans,” Burke was quoted as saying in a press release.

“People have a right to know what the risks are and how to best protect their privacy.”

Even in this Big Brother world of surveillance cameras on virtually every street corner and tracking devices in cars, Hairston said many cell phone users are “unaware that their location is being tracked.”

“This proposal simply seeks to give the public the information they need to maintain their privacy,” Hairston was quoted as saying.

The preamble to the ordinance notes that the Federal Trade Commission’s “privacy and data security update” noted that the agency has initiated more than 40 general privacy lawsuits. One of them accused a “foreign-based mobile advertising company” of “deceptively tracking the locations of hundreds of millions of consumers, including children, without their knowledge or consent. The purpose was to “serve them geography-targeted advertising,” the ordinance states.