Chaffetz works to Protect Privacy with GPS Act

Mar 21, 2013

Washington, D.C. – Looking to bring clarity to the use of electronically obtained location data, Congressman Jason Chaffetz introduced H.R. 1312, the Geolocation Privacy and Surveillance (GPS) Act.  This 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.

The GPS act is cosponsored by a bipartisan group of 13 lawmakers including former Judiciary Chairman Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and current Judiciary Ranking Member, Rep. Jon Conyers (D-MI). Companion legislation will also be introduced in the Senate by Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill). 

“New technologies are making it increasingly easy to track and log the location of individuals. We need to make sure laws are keeping up with technology to protect our privacy,” said Chaffetz. “Put simply, 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.”

In the recent case U.S. v. Jones, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that physically attaching a GPS device to a vehicle constituted a search under the 4th Amendment.  However, the Court stopped short of requiring a warrant for geolocation information, including that obtained from devices or methods such as smartphones or OnStar systems. 

“Although Jones was a step in the right direction, the Department of Justice is still arguing in court that they do not need a warrant to track someone’s movements using GPS devices or technology. This highlights the need for Congress to step in and provide clear and reasonable guidelines,” said Chaffetz.

H.R. 1312 applies to all domestic law enforcement acquisitions of the geolocation information of individual Americans without their knowledge. It creates criminal penalties for surreptitiously using an electronic device to track a person’s movements and prohibits commercial service providers from sharing customers’ geolocation information with outside entities without customer consent.  

 The GPS Act is supported by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Americans for Tax Reform’s (ATR) DigitalLiberty.net, the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), and the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA).

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