GPS Act would make it illegal to track users without their consent

By Gautham Nagesh - 06/07/11 04:15 PM ET

A bipartisan draft bill From Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) would make it a crime to intercept or disclose an individual's location data and require a warrant for government to obtain that information.

The Geolocational Surveillance and Privacy or GPS Act would prevent individuals or law enforcement from using location data from individuals' cell phones, GPS or other electronic devices to track their location without a warrant. Those that violate the law could face fines or up to five years in jail.

According to a report from Nextgov, Chaffetz touted the bill on Tuesday at the Personal Democracy Forum conference in Manhattan, arguing the bill would protect the right of citizens to avoid being tracked. He plans to introduce legislation similar to this draft version with Wyden next week.

"Law enforcement, in my mind, has overstepped its bounds and thrown out many of our Fourth Amendment rights," Chaffetz said.

"They have, right now, the ability to take a GPS device, put it on the bottom of your car and follow you without ever getting a search warrant," he continued. "I think the American public deserves and expects a degree of personal privacy. We in America don't work on a presumption of guilt."

The bill imposes criminal penalties on individuals that use a GPS to track another person's movements and on cell phone companies that share customers' location data without clear consent.

The bill provides exceptions for emergencies, warrants, and instances where a parent consents to having their child tracked. Otherwise users must clearly agree to having their data shared with a third party.

The legislation will reportedly be among several bills produced from discussions between the two lawmakers. Wyden has also drawn headlines for placing a hold on the PROTECT IP Act, which would significantly expand the government's authority to seize domains connected to online piracy.

Phillip J. Bond’s ‘Tech Execs’ appears here on The Hill's Hillicon Valley Blog every week.

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