Search This Blog

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Location, Location, Location: Laws Lagging Location Technology

In 2012 the Supreme Court unanimously agreed to bar
Police from installing GPS to track subjects.  However, a
Federal appeals court has ruled that obtaining location
information from wireless carriers does not require a
warrant - and some agencies are using geo-located photo
ID's of license plates to track vehicle locations.  Email IP
addresses can also provide indirect location information.
Continued from our prior article: Lawmakers in Washington DC have picked up on the issue of location privacy though little has been done since several measures were introduced for the new congressional session.

The GPS Act (HR 1312 and S. 639) and the Online Communications and Geolocation Protection Act (HR 983) would prohibit intercepting and disclosing location information without prior consent. Both of these bills are still in committee, and no action has been taken on them since March 2013.

The Location Privacy Protection Act, which was introduced in 2011 by Sen. Al Franken, D-Minnesota, would prohibit companies from collecting, obtaining or disclosing most location data without express permission. According to his staff, the senator is planning to reintroduce the bill in the coming months.

The US Senate has several proposed bills to limit the use of
location tracking data.
State lawmakers are not waiting — although they are primarily moving to mandate law enforcement officials get a warrant before accessing location data. Massachusetts is considering such a law and Maine has already passed one. Texas has passed a law requiring a warrant for emails, and a similar bill passed the California Senate. The metadata in the header of an email can include an IP address, which often indicates location.

The laws on location data are unclear, said Natasha Léger, chief executive officer of the Location Forum, and handling things poorly can put a firm’s reputation at risk. To keep the confidence of their customers, companies should adopt policies that protect their privacy even if they may go beyond current legal requirements, she said.

Many public safety agencies, including Police use
private GPS tracking systems to keep track of their
fleets of vehicles - including patrol cars, fire,
ambulance, and State patrol vehicles.
“I think for the future of location what is important is demonstrating respect for location data and privacy beyond what the current law asks for,” said Leger, “because the technology is moving much faster than the current legal and policy regime.”

Companies that step up to the challenge will not only avoid bad publicity but will be able to make a stronger case to the customers whose location data they must have to succeed.

“We at the Forum look at privacy from the perspective of it being utilized as a competitive advantage,” said Leger. “As people become more and more concerned about how their information is being collected used and shared . . . people are really looking for companies that are stepping up and stewarding that information responsibly.”