Carriers are stretching the definition of “reasonable use” of data, according to Victoria Espinel, president and CEO of BSA, and using it in ways that surprise consumers. While using a map app, for example, one expects to be sharing location data with the app. However, “if you have a flashlight app on your phone and you find out that it’s tracking your location,” Espinel said, “to many people, including myself and including regulatory agencies, that doesn’t seem like a reasonable use of that data.”
As data use and technology evolve, agencies are struggling to develop timely and reasonable regulations. At any given time, there are dozens of technology- and communications-related bills at various stages in Congress; meanwhile; new applications, devices, and software are being developed every day.
“The government enforcement process, when it comes to technology, is inherently behind current technology,” said Terrell McSweeny, partner at Covington & Burling LLP and former commissioner on the Federal Trade Commission. “The enforcers are coming along and picking up issues when they arise, but they’re lagging a little bit.”
In addition to the difficulty of keeping up with rapidly changing technology, lawmakers are inundated with complaints from their constituents about data use and misuse. The concerns highlight the tradeoffs that come with having access to virtually infinite amounts of information at one’s fingertips.
“Our office gets 40,000 calls a year with complaints, most of them about robocalls. But I don’t know anyone who would be willing to give up their cellphone. They rely on it. It’s part of life,” said Brian Frosh, attorney general of Maryland. “The advances in technology have improved our lives in multifarious ways, but on the other hand, people are more recently becoming aware of privacy dangers.”
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