New Bill Introduced To Outlaw GPS Tracking Without Consent

from the oh-big-brother dept

We’ve been noting, over the past few years, the growing number of lawsuits involving the legality of law enforcement tracking people’s movements with GPS devices. There are some mixed and contradictory rulings, which means it’ll all likely hit the Supreme Court at some point, but a new bill in the Senate from Ron Wyden and in the House from Rep. Jason Chaffetz apparently seeks to do an end-run around all of that and have Congress clarify the law by saying it’s illegal to track that kind of data without a warrant. The bill using yet another “cute” acronym is the “Geolocational Privacy and Surveillance Act” — or the GPS Act. Get it?

I do wonder if some of the prohibitions on “intercepting” such information go too far — though there is a “normal course of business” exception in the law. The key focus of the bill really seems on law enforcement, and requiring them to take the not-at-all-onerous step of first getting a warrant. This is eminently reasonable, but you can bet that law enforcement is going to go ballistic about how this bill will “harm” investigations and put people at risk. Get ready for the fear mongering… Update: The bill is to be introduced next week, and there may be some changes from the current draft I was basing this on…

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Comments on “New Bill Introduced To Outlaw GPS Tracking Without Consent”

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38 Comments
KnownHuman (profile) says:

enough with names

I want to introduce legislation that mandates laws be introduced with numbers based on a logical schema so that bad legislation (looking at you, US PATRIOT Act) can’t be introduced in a manner that works against detractors in campaign ads.

I wonder, if I call it the “I Love America Act” if anyone would vote against it?

A.R.M. (profile) says:

“The bill using yet another “cute” acronym is the “Geolocational Privacy and Surveillance Act” — or the GPS Act. Get it?”
GROOOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAN.

That was over the “Get it” remark as, for some reason, I felt like I was a 5th grader competing on a game show.

Get it?

Fun aside, I do have to say acronyms help. I prefer the “GPS Act” over “SB 1324 Part II, Subsection 3” any day of the week.
😛

rubberpants says:

Re: Response to: A.R.M. on Jun 8th, 2011 @ 7:25am

I think having the bills named after the (primary) rep who introduces the bill plus an incrementing number. For example, a bill to give RIAA lobbiests just what they want might be called The Orin Hatch 322 Act.

Or even better, name the bill after the company that gets the biggest benefit from it along with what they are getting. Unfortunately, no Senator would be ashamed to vote for the Comcast Monopoly 14 Act.

Jimr (profile) says:

Cell phones with GPS

I guess all new cell phone contract will now include a clause that will grant them consent to use your GPS information to track you. Yea GPS data is nice for cell companies as if they know your location AND direction/speed they can better facility tower switch.

Is there an automatic exception as it related to the Patriot Act (and home land security)?

Kevin Bankston (user link) says:

the headline is incorrect--the bill had not yet been introduced

Hi Mike–Thanks for the story on this interesting and important issue. However, just to be clear, the bill has not been introduced. As the Hill story that you link to indicates, it is expected to be introduced next week. The draft of the bill that is currently available is just that, a draft.

Mike Kevitt says:

GPS tracking by the authorities

Sorry, but I don’t see, or know of, any reason for principled opposition to GPS tracking by the authorities. The 4th. Amendment doesn’t apply, here. For one thing, it’s not a search of one’s person or property, and it doesn’t necessarily enter into one’s property or touch one’s person. It’s no different than following you in a squad car for a while, having sensed you visually, the eye being a thoroughly passive sensing device. But, not knowing the technology of GPS enough, I think it might involve sending signals into one’s property or onto one’s person if it’s not a thoroughly passive technology. If it does, then that method of tracking is out, without a warrant, on principle.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Bill Aimed At Something That Is Already Happening?

There is plenty of speculation in the telecom industry that this Bill is being proposed to specifically prohibit some things that are already happening.

The Bill is put forward by Senators with Top Secret clearance, who are/may be aware that the government is already using provisions in the Patriot Act to skirt around the Fourth Amendment and track citizens without Reasonable Cause.

While these legislators cannot publicly discuss whatever top secret surveillance is currently occurring, they CAN propose a law that would prevent it.

There cannot be any proof of what I am saying, but I believe it to be likely. Either way, citizens need to be clear to our government, and demand a law that specifically requires a warrant to track the motions of innocent citizens. I hope this Bill goes through.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

GPS tracking by the authorities

“It’s no different than following you in a squad car for a while, having sensed you visually, the eye being a thoroughly passive sensing device.”

IT is very different. There is a substantial cost to actually following you in a squad car. They would not undergo that cost without some suspicion of guilt. That action, in business terms, “does not scale” at all. Also, there is a very clear “tell” in that there is marked squad car following you.

In the case of phone-based location surveillance, technology is (or will rapidly advance) at the point where your government could basically just monitor everyone because the price is so low. Consider it similar to the way Google monitors every web site, and even stores a cache copy of it.

If given the option, the government WOULD choose to do so. Why? Not because they want to look at every person in the country, and analyze their motions, but because they can build an amazing data repertoire, and MINE it for patterns.

If I suspect Mullah Osama of plotting terrorism, and I have tracked his phone for a year, then what happens if I mine the database for his know accomplices, and see when all those phones are in the same place. Now I have a good guess as to where they meet. Now, let’s mine the dB to see who else is in that location at those key times. OK, that gives us other suspects in the terror cell. That all sounds awesome if we’re busting up terror cells, but to do this requires they gather the data on ALL OF US. Basically, we are ALL SUSPECTS, all the time.

There will be false positives, for sure, and that would be a direct problem if they arrest you because you are an Iranian immigrant, and you go to the library every Tuesday at 6 for English tutoring, just when Mullah Osama and his band meet in the fiction section.

But, really, it is much worse. Once the government has that dB, is it really secure from hackers? Will some Department of the government try to use it beyond the scope originally promised? Would someone use it to root out people doing entirely legal activities that of which they simply disapproved? Could a Joe McCarthy-type of person ever exist, and rise to a position of power, and abuse that power? Of course the answer is no, so we can all just relax and stop worrying.

Remember the old mobile Internet promise, the Internet: any device, any place, any time? Well, just change that to surveillance of you: all devices, all places, all the time.

Mike Kevitt (profile) says:

Re: GPS tracking by the authorities

RE back to Derek Kerton: It appears the only solution to the things you cite is to tear down the Internet and roll back all the hi-tech., and go back to the old technology and stay there. It’s my bet you don’t think that, and that the appearance I cite is wrong. How ’bout this? Computers, hardware and software are one thing, and the Internet is something else. Can’t the cops gather data from the Internet and store their db. offline, analyse it offline, get more data online, analyse it offline and maybe even delete useless data from its offline db.? Can anybody hack into offline data? Maybe I’m showing an immense technological ignorance with that question, but I’ll chance that. If that can be done, it’s better than going back to old tech. As for the government knowing everything about everybody, in an actually free country, if that really did happen, so what?, as long as any person or entity doesn’t initiate physical force anywhere against any other person or entity. In such a country, despite whatever it knows about whom, the government can go after only initiators of force, that is, it can go after only criminals. The subject of just what a “free” country is, is a big subject. Here, I’ll just say it’s where the government does but one thing: Take effective responsive physical force against initiatory physical force, that is, against crime.

Jeni (profile) says:

Bill Aimed At Something That Is Already Happening?

“Basically, we are ALL SUSPECTS, all the time.”

Exactly, Derek! It is difficult to comprehend that anyone can just “be okay” with this. This is pure insanity.

To the “this is okay” people; wait until you’re accused of something you’re totally innocent of just because you were at the wrong place at the wrong time – but LEO says you’re guilty so that’s that. You’re diddled.

After all, they all say, “But I didn’t do it!”

Burt Fisher (user link) says:

What does the bill purport to do> Prohibit the reception of the signal from the GPS satellite? That wouldn’t do any good. Maybe the bill should simply keep it illegal for unreasonable searches and seizures.

A GPS receiver does nothing more than receive a radio signal from outer space and calculate where the receiver is. The part that bothers me is the added surveillance portion that radios that information to the voyeurs. That is the part that should be illegal, just like it would be illegal for the cops to listen in on my private conversations.

Alex John (profile) says:

Fleet management system

Flotilla IoT is a cloud-based-end to-end web-based fleet management software. From fuel management and performance reporting to vehicle tracking and maintenance, it covers everything. With a flexible design, it is ideal for fleet businesses of all sizes. It also offers integration of a GPS tracking mobile app and a real-time monitoring mobile app to facilitate business operations.

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