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California senate bill would need warrant for GPS info

updated 07:40 pm EDT, Thu April 12, 2012

California bill to limit cellphone tracking

A new bill introduced in California would restrict government tracking of cellphones without a warrant, the LA Times reported. State Senator Mark Leno introduced SB 1434 as a proposed amendment to the Penal Code. Leno believes that the state government's laws aren't reflecting the newly available technology and access to the sensitive location information isn't adequately supervised.

If passed in its entirety into law, the bill would also limit search warrants to no longer than is needed, and never longer than 30 days. The state Senate policy committee will meet regarding the bill this spring.

Leno's stance is backed by an American Civil Liberties Union audit of law enforcement agencies around the country that found the practice is fairly common without a warrant or subpoena. It's done either using the GPS sensor in a phone or triangulation between cell towers.

Some, including the founding academic director of the Center on Law and Information Policy at Fordham University Joel Reidenberg, believe such tracking may even violate the first amendment that protects the freedom of association of US citizens.

The precedent-setting US Supreme Court case of United States vs. Jones ruled that tracking movements using a device is comparable to trespassing on private property, although cellphones aren't necessarily covered as they don't necessarily require extra tracking hardware.

by MacNN Staff



  1. Makosuke

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Good Plan

    Glad to hear that at least someone in the government is making an effort to match laws to modern technology when it comes to basic constitutional rights.

    Of course, on the flip side, it seems like that recent wireless carrier agreement to stop allowing stolen phones to work should include a provision for passing location info on stolen phones along to law enforcement. You can already do a DIY version with Find My iPhone and its kin, but this should really be something available cross-carrier.

    It's the checks and balances between allowing somebody to find their stolen $500 phone and allowing law enforcement to surreptitiously track your location without any oversight that's the hard part.

  1. Flying Meat

    Joined: Dec 1969


    You always have an a right

    to your own data. You do not have a right to someone else's data. Someone may grant you the right to some or all their data, or the courts can allow access to someones data through warrant limited to a specific purpose. Data obtained via warrant may not be retained or shared if it is not germane to the stated purpose of the warrant.

    Problem solved.

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