comScore

Al Franken Eyes Case of Woman Fired for Resisting Tracking App

Franken visits Tartan High School's science and engineering department in February, encourages kids to develop tech for good, not stalking.

Franken visits Tartan High School's science and engineering department in February, encourages kids to develop tech for good, not stalking.

Myrna Arias of California, a saleswoman formerly working for wire-transfer company Intermex, is suing her old bosses for monitoring her cell phone 24/7 and then firing her when she opted out of the app that allowed them to do it.

Her lawsuit alleges that shortly after she was hired by Intermex in February 2014, her manager John Stubits asked employees to download Xora, a GPS app, to their smart phones. He said they were to never turn those phones off in case they needed to field calls from clients, according to the complaint.

See also: Al Franken Wants to Outlaw the Deceitful Contracts That Nearly Everyone Signs

When Arias said she had a problem with the company monitoring her whereabouts after work hours, Stubits allegedly responded that Intermex was paying her enough to justify the request.

Arias went ahead and uninstalled Xora anyway. Stubits reprimanded her for it, and a few weeks later she was fired.

The corporate creep factor might be through the roof on this case, but the actual laws on stalker apps are surprisingly lax. It's illegal to hack people's phone records or emails, but it's still perfectly OK to siphon their GPS data via an app that is installed secretly and operates in stealth mode.

Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), chair of the Senate Privacy, Technology and Law subcommittee, has been trying to ban stalker apps for a while. The two-fold principle of his proposed Location Privacy Protection Act is that consumers must consent to GPS tracking, and any work-related tracking must have a legitimate business purpose.

"I think that we all have a fundamental right to privacy -- a right to control who gets your personal, sensitive information, and who it's shared with," Franken says. "Location tracking can reveal a wealth of sensitive information, so it is critical that federal and state laws provide adequate protections. In this case, it's difficult to understand how any employer could think that it's reasonable or appropriate to collect location data on employees when they are off-duty."

If Arias's lawsuit is factual, the senator will have to raise some concerns with Intermex, a Franken staffer said. After a cursory look into Xoras, Franken's office is satisfied that this app was legitimately designed to help businesses track mobile employees, not surreptitiously spy on their after-work whereabouts. But it depends on how the technology is used, the staffer said.

Send news tips to Susan Du.