Privacy on your mobile phone is kind of a big deal. And a company named Carrier IQ made it an even bigger one about a year ago by getting all up in a bunch of people's business. If you don't remember the Carrier IQ debacle of last winter, let me give you a rundown.
First, a guy named TrevE figured out that a company called Carrier IQ had its software installed on a bunch of phones, and that it was taking a lot of data from those phones. Like, scary amounts. And all that data went back to Carrier IQ, who then passed on some of it to the carriers.
The end result of this was a truly epic PR disaster for the company, a mass-exodus of its major clients, and even statements by non-clients attempting to distance themselves from the whole debacle. This all really upset Al Franken, too. The public reaction, though, can best be summed up in this video:
So, a guy (congressman, whatever) by name of Edward Markey (D-MA) decided that this probably shouldn't happen again, and introduced a bill in the US House of Representatives today called the Mobile Device Privacy Act.
The gist is this: if your phone comes with tracking software, it needs to tell you that from the moment you turn it on. Then, it needs to give you an option to opt-out of that tracking. It also needs to tell you what it's tracking, who gets the information, and how it will or might be used. Anyone collecting mobile device data would have to keep tabs with the FTC and FCC on exactly what sort of tracking they're doing, and both agencies would gain new authority to enforce these rules (probably through fines).
Will it pass? That's pretty hard to say. The mobile industry (carriers, in particular) is vehemently opposed to such a bill, as tracking software allows them to collect information about coverage, quality of service, and regional demand - all extremely important in planning network rollouts, or identifying trouble spots. Handset makers collect data about usage, bugs, and various other stats, as well. This bill would give users a choice in deciding whether or not they want these companies getting such data, so they're going to fight it tooth and nail.
We'll doubtless see how this plays out in the next few months, but don't be surprised if the bill gets stuck in committee - lobbying money has a funny habit of finding its way into policy discussions.