updated 11:25 pm EDT, Tue October 25, 2011
Geolocation Privacy and Surveillance Act
Oregon Senator Ron Wyden is currently pushing to enact legislation that would require government agencies to obtain warrants before obtaining location tracking data. The Geolocation Privacy and Surveillance Act is said to clarify laws surrounding digital location information such as GPS data from cellphones.
Proponents argue the current Electronic Communication Privacy Act is outdated and improperly applied to technology that was not as pervasive when the law was signed in 1986.
"The rules that governed technology in 1986 don't always make sense in 2011," said Wyden, as quoted by Oregon Business Report. "This legislation offers law enforcement and the telecom industry clear guidelines on how location data can be used, while giving law-abiding consumers confidence that their privacy rights are being respecting."
The GPS Act treats GPS data from cellphones as deserving of the same protections provided to phone lines or an individual's home. Government agencies would have to obtain a warrant before obtaining location information from private companies, such as cellular providers, or attempting to covertly install tracking devices.
Senator Wyden is backed by Illinois Senator Mark Kirk and Utah Representative Jason Chaffetz, along with the American Civil Liberties Union and Competitive Enterprise Institute. The ACLU argues in favor of constitutional protections over unwarranted surveillance, while the CEI suggests the legislation will benefit companies that offer GPS-enabled products.