California senate bill would need warrant for GPS info

Joel Reidenberg in Electronista, April 12, 2012

Media Source

A new bill introduced in California would restrict government tracking of cellphones without a warrant, the LA Times reported. State Senator Mark Leno introduced SB 1434 as a proposed amendment to the Penal Code. Leno believes that the state government's laws aren't reflecting the newly available technology and access to the sensitive location information isn't adequately supervised.

If passed in its entirety into law, the bill would also limit search warrants to no longer than is needed, and never longer than 30 days. The state Senate policy committee will meet regarding the bill this spring.

Leno's stance is backed by an American Civil Liberties Union audit of law enforcement agencies around the country that found the practice is fairly common without a warrant or subpoena. It's done either using the GPS sensor in a phone or triangulation between cell towers.

Some, including the founding academic director of the Center on Law and Information Policy at Fordham University Joel Reidenberg, believe such tracking may even violate the first amendment that protects the freedom of association of US citizens.

The precedent-setting US Supreme Court case of United States vs. Jones ruled that tracking movements using a device is comparable to trespassing on private property, although cellphones aren't necessarily covered as they don't necessarily require extra tracking hardware.