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Sen. Franken reintroduces Location Privacy Protection bill to prevent smartphone apps from targeting abuse victims

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New legislation is looking to stop smartphone apps from giving someone the ability to track your every move, message, photo and phone call. One Minnesota senator says stalking apps are giving abusers access to victims.

These days, where ever you go your smartphone is usually right there with you. Most modern devices can track your every move. Some use the GPS settings to keep an eye on kids and family.

"Being able to keep track of where he is, or my wife, who's always late getting home from work, I can see if she's left the hospital yet," Andy Froelich said.

But several apps can use that technology to monitor others in complete secrecy.

"Those apps, what once would be helpful are now used to put people in danger" YWCA Communications Coordinator Anne Slette said.

Senator Al Franken is reintroducing a Location Privacy Protection bill. He says so-called stalking apps allow abusers to secretly track a victim.

Domestic Violence support workers say they already see technology putting victims in harm's way.

"Just a couple of weeks ago, we had a young woman who just signed onto her social media platform and her abuser saw her location. And we had to take the steps to find her a new, secure home," Slette said.

And apps like FlexiSpy and M Spy can do more than track your location. If someone installs one on your phone, they can read your texts and emails, look at your photos and see all of your recent mobile and app activity. A user can even access your phone's camera to snap a picture or listen in on your phone calls.

"Technology makes it hard to get away from those situations," Slette said.

The bill would ban companies from developing apps like this. It also would require them to ask your permission before collecting or sharing your location data from your smartphone or tablet.

Some say a legal barrier would give abusers one less tool.

"Make sure technology and those scary apps that are so prevalent now aren't in the way of women being safe and starting a new life," Slette said.

One study found at least 25,000 US adults are victims of GPS stalking every year.

Catherine Ross

Catherine joined the WDAY 6 News team as a reporter and photographer in April of 2014 and is honored to bring you stories from around the Red River Valley. She grew up in a suburb of Minneapolis and got her first taste of the news industry during a high school mentorship at Fox 9 in the Twin Cities. Catherine graduated from Emerson College in Boston where she participated in the student-run TV station WEBN and spent a semester in Washington, DC working at Voice of America. Those opportunities gave her a front-row seat to the 2012 Presidential election cycle, reporting at the Iowa Caucuses, Republican National Convention and President Obama’s second inauguration. Now happy to be back closer to family, Catherine enjoys exploring the nature and culture of the upper Midwest. She’s an avid runner, novice foodie and lifelong Twins fan. If you have any story ideas or just want to say hello, Catherine would love to hear from you!

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