Last week, Sen. Ron Wyden, Rep. Jason Chaffetz and Rep. John Conyers, Jr., reintroduced The Geolocation Privacy and Surveillance Act, which aims to restrict the circumstances where law enforcement agencies may use digital tracking technology for tracking purposes. In the proposal, Senator Wyden noted the importance of obtaining a warrant or providing a warning prior to government agencies using location trackers for locating U.S. citizens. The proposal also stated the necessity to modernize outdated laws that did not account for new technology such as cell phones or other devices with GPS capabilities.
Pointing to piecemeal state laws in this area, Senator Wyden stated that the lack of federal guidance has led to less privacy for citizens and an unwillingness of phone providers to defend against requests for private information in court. In order to resolve these issues, the Act seeks to: (1) require a show of probable cause and a warrant to acquire geolocational information of a U.S. citizen (except for certain emergency situations), (2) create criminal penalties for secretly using an electronic device to track a person’s movements and (3) prohibit commercial service providers from sharing customer geolocation information with third parties without customer consent. With these components, the Act would provide standard federal law to regulate how law enforcement agencies can use this technology.
The next step for the Act is to be reviewed by the Committee on the Judiciary. Commentators are pessimistic, however, that the Act will move further than this. This Act was first introduced during the 112th Congress and failed to move further than the Judiciary Committee, with similar failures over the course of the next few years. Interested parties are encouraged to monitor the progress of this attempt to move The Geolocation Privacy and Surveillance Act forward at https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/senate-bill/395/text.