US lawmakers push to limit gov't mobile tracking

Senators call for Congress to pass a law requiring warrants to track mobile phone users

The U.S. Congress needs to pass legislation that would require law enforcement agencies to get permission from a judge before tracking suspects through their mobile phones, instead of the now-common practice of tracking a mobile subscriber's location after a prosecutor-issued subpoena, two U.S. lawmakers said Tuesday.

Senators Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, and Mark Kirk, an Illinois Republican, joined several advocacy groups from across the political spectrum to push for the passage of the Geolocation Privacy and Surveillance (GPS) Act, introduced back in June. The legislation would require U.S. law enforcement agencies, in most cases, to get court-ordered warrants to track suspects through GPS information on smartphones and other mobile devices.

It's time to clear up confusion about mobile phone tracking by law enforcement agencies and update parts of the 25-year-old Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), the law that sets the rules for law enforcement access to U.S. residents' digital data, Wyden said.

"The laws that govern the new media are essentially as old as the staffers who Senator Kirk and I hire to handle new media," Wyden said. "This is an area, it seems to me, where the new tools call for some new, common-sense rules."

The two senators used the anniversary of ECPA as a hook to push for passage of the GPS Act and to host a retro tech fair featuring products marketed in 1986. Joining Wyden and Kirk were the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT), the American Civil Liberties Union, the conservative Americans for Tax Reform, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, among other groups.

CDT and other members of the Digital Due Process Coalition have been pushing for changes to ECPA since early in 2010, and the GPS Act would address one of four major concerns identified by the digital rights group. Other legislation in Congress would address other concerns about ECPA, including the privacy of data stored in the cloud.

"Americans deserve a privacy upgrade," Jim Dempsey, CDT's vice president for public policy, said during Tuesday's press conference. "Most Americans would be astonished to learn that government agents can track them, 24/7, without getting a warrant from a judge."

During recent hearings, representatives of the U.S. Department of Justice have questioned the need for changes to ECPA. Changes in ECPA would make it more difficult for the FBI and other law enforcement agencies to protect the U.S. public and maintain national security, Valerie Caproni, general counsel of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, said in May.

Kirk, a new sponsor of the GPS Act, said the bill is a good first step toward protecting the privacy of U.S. residents, although more sweeping changes to ECPA may be needed.

"Government needs restrictions," added Fred Smith Jr., president and founder of the conservative Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is grant_gross@idg.com.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags U.S. Federal Bureau of InvestigationAmericans for Tax ReformtelecommunicationValerie CaproniJim DempseyCompetitive Enterprise InstitutemobilelegislationprivacyElectronic Frontier FoundationAmerican Civil Liberties Union4g3gRon WydensecurityFred Smith Jr.Center for Democracy and TechnologygovernmentU.S. Department of JusticeU.S. SenateMark Kirk

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Grant Gross

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?