Bills on Use of Mobile-Device-Location Data Reintroduced

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Updating our entry on this issue posted during the last Congress, on March 21, 2013, lawmakers in the House and Senate reintroduced companion bills intended to curb government use of mobile users’ geolocation data. The reintroduced Geolocation Privacy and Surveillance Act is nearly identical to legislation introduced nearly two years ago, as described in our prior post. However, unlike two years ago, the bills are not accompanied by companion legislation requiring users’ permission for industry to share geolocation data, as was the case previously with the Location Privacy Protection Act of 2011.

The newly reintroduced Geolocation Privacy and Surveillance Act, sponsored again in the Senate by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Or.) and in the House by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), would require the government and law enforcement agencies to obtain a warrant before accessing a person’s geolocation data, i.e., GPS information logged through Wi-fi networks and cellular towers. The legislation is modeled after existing wiretapping and electronic surveillance laws and would add to Title 18 of the U.S. Code a new chapter 120 entitled “Protection of Geolocation Information.”

Several exceptions would apply, including those for emergency responders, parents of minors, and intelligence investigations under the Patriot Act. In addition, the bill specifies that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and this legislation, if adopted, would be the only means by which geolocation information could be lawfully obtained by the government. The bills are expected to be referred to the Judiciary Committees in both chambers, neither of which acted on versions introduced in the previous Congress.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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