New Law Protects Privacy Rights – Ends Warrantless GPS Tracking

gps location tracking legalIn today’s world, technological innovations are created at a light speed pace, which – generally speaking – is a good thing. But Smartphone technology and other mobile devices are developed  so quickly and intelligently that lawmakers have struggled to keep up with the implications of modern technology.

This has become a big problem for society. How can the legal system protect you if the legal system can’t keep up?

This is especially true when it comes to privacy rights and GPS tracking. But not for much longer, if the propsed GPS Act is passed. Jason Chaffetz, a Utah State Representative, and Senator Bill Wyden have proposed a new bi-partisan bill called the Chaffetz-Wyden GPS Act.  In this case, GPS stands for Geolocation Privacy and Surveillance, not global positioning system.

According to Chaffetz, most of the laws we have that might be relevant were written when there was no such thing as global positioning system (GPS) devices. Chaffetz is trying to catch the law up with GPS tracking technology in mobile devices and in secret tracking devices used by law enforcement and corporations.

The purpose of the GPS Act is to establish a comprehensive framework for how companies and law enforcement will be allowed to use GPS technology.  The bill would give greater protections to consumers by prohibiting commercial service providers such as Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) and Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) from sharing customer’s locations to third parties without the customer’s consent.

The GPS Act applies to real-time tracking, as well as information on past movements, and its provisions cover all electronic tracking, not just mobile devices.

Privacy rights advocates fear that law enforcement agents are violating people’s 4th Amendment Rights to Privacy by using GPS tracking without a warrant. Chaffetz’s bill however would require probable cause for law-enforcement tracking through geo-location technology in mobile devices as well as tracking devices covertly planted on individuals by law enforcement agents.

“The GPS Act would substantially improve and clarify the protections governing geolocation data by requiring that law enforcement obtain a judicial warrant based upon probable cause prior to accessing locational information under most circumstances. At the same time, the bill would preserve the building blocks of law enforcement investigations, and it would leave intact existing exceptions for data disclosure in legitimate emergencies.”

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