The courts aren’t sure whether so-called “geolocation” data taken from GPS devices or cellphones is covered by the Fourth Amendment, as Wired.com’s blog Threat Level has extensively reported. That ambiguity has largely enabled law enforcement to snatch it up without getting a warrant or showing probable cause.
Sen. Ron Wyden, a Democrat, and Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a Republican, want to make things crystal clear: no warrant, no geolocation info. […] A bill they’ve collaborated to draft prevents the government from getting tracking data sent by your smartphone, GPS unit or other device — including any “successor device,” a nod to as-yet-unimagined tech — without a court order. It exempts geolocation collection from the Patriot Act’s “business records” provision.
The cops also would be barred from taking that information from numbers that call you (“trap and trace” devices) or that you dial (“pen registers”). Its provisions protect both real-time and historic geolocation info. […]
And the bill doesn’t just restrict the government’s abilities to get your geolocation data. Telecoms, carriers and businesses would have to get your explicit consent before collecting it. (Sorry, Apple.) […]
Chaffetz and Wyden plan to introduce the bill the week of June 15. The bill’s existence was first reported by CNet, and Danger Room has acquired a copy, which you can read below. […]
“Americans have a reasonable expectation of privacy,” Chaffetz says. “Just because you use a device that has a geolocator on it doesn’t mean everyone should be able to follow you.”