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Wyden promotes GPS Privacy Act

June 21, 2011

Legislation Provides Needed Legal Clarity for Use of Geolocation Information
Oregon Senator Ron Wyden,
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – New technologies – like cell phones, smart phones, laptops and navigation devices – are making it increasingly easy to track and log the location of individual Americans, yet federal laws have not kept pace with the technology. The lack of legal clarity surrounding the use of electronically-obtained location data, also known as geolocation information, means that there are no clear rules for how this data can be used, accessed or sold by law enforcement, commercial entities or private citizens. As a result, prosecutors are often unsure when judges will allow geolocation information to be admitted as evidence. Telecommunications companies are often unsure when or if they are allowed to share their customer’s geolocation data with law enforcement. Customers are often unsure when or if their providers are sharing their geolocation data with law enforcement or selling it to other private companies. It is even unclear if law enforcement has the tools to arrest a stalker caught using technology to follow another person or obtain that person’s geolocation information.

With this in mind, U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and U.S. Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) teamed up to write the Geolocation Privacy and Surveillance (GPS) Act. The bipartisan legislation creates a legal framework designed to give government agencies, commercial entities and private citizens clear guidelines for when and how geolocation information can be accessed and used. U.S. Representative Bob Goodlatte, Chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, Competition and the Internet, endorsed the effort as an original co-sponsor.

“GPS technology is unquestionably a great tool, not just for Americans on the go and cellular companies offering services, but for law enforcement professionals looking to track suspects and catch criminals,” Wyden said. “But all tools and tactics require rules and right now, when it comes to geolocation information, the rules aren’t clear. Congressman Chaffetz and I have worked to establish rules that we believe will foster the effective use of geolocation data while protecting the privacy rights of law-abiding American citizens.”

“I think it’s great that GPS and tracking technology exists,” said Chaffetz. “What isn’t great is the idea that this technology can be used to track somebody without their knowledge. It is the job of Congress to protect and defend the United States Constitution and the personal liberties provided to American citizens under the Fourth Amendment. Quite frankly, the government and law enforcement should not be able to track somebody indefinitely without their knowledge or consent, or without obtaining a warrant from a judge.”

Overall the GPS Act:

* Provides clarity for government agencies, commercial service providers, and the public regarding the legal procedures and protections that apply to electronic devices that can be used to track the movements of individual Americans. In a recent memo, the Congressional Research Service identified a lack of cohesion throughout criminal court jurisdictions over what standards and procedures must be met in order for information gathered though GPS devices to be used in court. This lack of clarity has led to confusion among law enforcement and prosecutors who waste valuable time and resources litigating and appealing what should be clear cut rules. The GPS Act takes steps to establish clear cut rules.
* Requires the government to show probable cause and get a warrant before acquiring the geolocational information of a U.S. person, while setting out clear exceptions such as emergency or national security situations or cases of theft or fraud.
* Applies to all law enforcement acquisitions of the geolocational information of individual Americans without their knowledge, including acquisition from commercial service providers as well as from tracking devices covertly installed by the government.
* Applies to real-time tracking of a person’s movements, as well as the acquisition of records of past movements. (Real-time tracking = “Where is John Smith right now?” Acquisition of records of past movements =“Where did John Smith go on St. Patrick’s Day?”)
* Closely tracks existing wiretapping laws with regard to court procedures for getting a warrant, penalties for acting without a warrant, exclusivity of the authority, authorization without a court order, etc.
* Creates criminal penalties for surreptitiously using an electronic device to track a person’s movements that parallel those for wiretapping. (Currently, if a woman’s ex-husband taps her phone, he is breaking the law. This legislation would treat hacking her GPS to track her movements as a similar offense).
* Prohibit commercial service providers from sharing customers’ geolocational information with outside entities without customer consent.

The GPS Act was introduced today in both the House and Senate. For more information or to read a copy of the legislation visit: or

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Discuss this article

Jenkins June 21, 2011

A privacy bill would be long overdue.

Vasu Murti June 21, 2011

Isn’t it against the law to put people in a box without their signed and written consent?

In his 1992 book, Visions of Liberty, former Executive Director of the ACLU, Ira Glasser writes:

“The use of wiretapping and electronic eavesdropping emerged during the Prohibition era. Roy Olmstead was a suspected bootlegger whom the government wished to search. It placed taps in the basement of his office building and on wires in the streets near his home. No physical entry into his office or home took place. Olmstead was convicted entirely on the basis of evidence from the wiretaps.

“In his appeal to the Supreme Court, Olmstead argued that the taps were a search conducted without a warrant and without probable cause, and that the evidence seized against him should have been excluded because it was illegally gathered. He also argued that his Fifth Amendment right not to be a witness against himself was violated.

“By a 5-4 vote, the Court rejected his arguments and upheld the government’s power to wiretap without limit and without any Fourth Amendment restrictions, on the grounds that no actual physical intrusion had taken place. “Olmstead’s Fifth Amendment claim was also dismissed on the grounds that he had not been compelled to talk on the telephone, but had done so voluntarily.

“Thus the Court upheld the government’s power to do by trickery and surreptitious means what it was not permitted to do honestly and openly.

“It wasn’t until 1967, in a similar case involving gambling, that the Court overruled the Olmstead decision by an 8-1 margin and recognized that the Fourth Amendment applied to wiretapping and electronic surveillance.

“Interestingly, these cases arose in the context of crimes like bootlegging and gambling. During the past twenty years, the majority of wiretapping and electronic eavesdropping by both state and federal officials has been in cases involving drug dealing and gambling.

“Serious crimes of violence, such as homicide, assault, rape, robbery, and burglary, are rarely the target of electronic eavesdropping, which is not normally a useful tool in such cases.

“From the beginning, when wiretapping was virtually invented to enforce laws prohibiting the sale of alcohol, to the late 1960s, when gambling was a major target, to the present, when the use and sale of drugs other than alcohol are the main target, these intrusive devices have been used mostly to enforce laws aimed at punishing and proscribing personal conduct that society deems immoral.

“Because such conduct essentially involves private activities among consenting adults who are all likely to want to keep those activities secret, they are harder to investigate and prosecute than crimes like robbery or burglary, in which an unwilling victim will probably aid any investigation…the invasion of privacy inherent in wiretapping and electronic eavesdropping remains with us as part of the legacy of our attempts to criminalize personal conduct.

“The other major use of electronic eavesdropping has been to punish political dissent. For decades, former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover used wiretaps and other electronic devices to spy on political figures and citizens not yet suspected of having committed a crime. He built vast dossiers on their political activities and personal lives. Special units of local police called ‘Red Squads’ did the same.

“Nor has electronic surveillance been the only source of our loss of privacy. The widespread use of urine-testing in employment to see whether people may have been using illegal substances violates the rights of many innocent people.

“Urine-testing programs are usually not restricted to those who show evidence of impaired job performance that may be due to the use of drugs. These tests are normally administered randomly. Without any probable cause for search, this is a violation of the Fourth Amendment.

“Many of these random tests have been struck down by the courts, where the government is the employer. But some have been upheld. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia (hardly a Constitutional liberal!), denounced them as ‘an immolation of privacy and human dignity in symbolic opposition to drug use.'”

Through the law of karma, the killing of unborn children can’t end until we first end the killing of animals. So-called “pro-lifers” who kill or cause animals to be killed are thwarting their own cause and are only perpetuating the abortion crisis.

In January 2006, on the eve of the West Coast Walk For Life in San Francisco, CA, Carol Crossed of Democrats For Life (kind enough to write the foreword to my own book, The Liberal Case Against Abortion) spoke optimistically of Roe v. Wade being overturned.

When I asked her if Roe could be overturned without Griswold v. Connecticut (the 1965 Supreme Court decision which guarantees a right to marital privacy regarding the practice of contraception) being overturned as well, Carol froze, and couldn’t answer the question!

I would have preferred it if Carol had said:

“You’re right. Only a pervert watches others pee, defecate, copulate, masturbate, shower, shave, etc. I would never want to live under electronic surveillance, nor could I inflict it upon others and claim to ‘cover.’

“It’s wrong to put people under surveillance without their knowledge or consent. We shouldn’t have to resort to draconian tactics to protect prenatal life.”

addin June 21, 2011

Who is putting people in a box? Makes no sense
We are free to what we please

Ella June 21, 2011

The government can track you by satellite, or they can even hack your brain from a distance, using simple cell phone technology. People are so stupid. Your EEG can be read from a distance. Go outside and film the freaking orbs that are in the sky at night. Use an infrared camera. See chemtrail planes? White planes that are silent? They are HOLOGRAMS, projected from DIRECTED ENERGY. They are ionizing the air over every city, turning it into a plasma weapon, which is being used on people. Don’t worry about the GPS issues, but seriously, any of that information can be hacked as well, so none of your information is safe with the (now) bad guys. look at my youtube on the holograms ella5024

Legislation Provides Clarity for Use of Geolocation Information July 3, 2011

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