Latest Treasure Is Location Data

Cellphones that collect people’s locations are only the tip of the iceberg: Auto makers, insurance companies and even shopping malls are experimenting with new ways to use this kind of data.

Location information is emerging as one of the hottest commodities in the tracking industry–the field of companies that are building businesses based on people’s data.

Some companies are using the data to build better maps or analyze traffic patterns. Others send users advertisements for services near where they are located. Some insurers hope to use the data to provide discounts to better drivers.

On Tuesday in Washington, D.C., a Senate Judiciary subcommittee plans a hearing to consider whether a federal law is required to protect consumer privacy on mobile devices. The hearing was spurred by the public outcry over recent findings that Apple Inc. and Google Inc. gather location-related data from iPhones and Android phones. Both companies are set to testify.

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