*Promoted from the diaries. – Aaron*
In January, we wrote how police agencies in 33 states are using different methods to obtain private citizens’ cellphone location information in massive quantities. Recall that:
The main problem is that there are few restrictions or reporting requirements on government efforts to obtain access to cell phone and electronic data. In most states, law enforcement agencies can obtain cell phone records and data without a court-approved warrant. Furthermore, the laws governing electronic surveillance are woefully outdated. The Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), the principal federal law providing rules for police to access electronic data, was written in 1986, years before cell phones were commonplace and the Internet was widespread.
Since we wrote that article in January, we now know there are 15 states, if not more, that are considering legislation to require a warrant for such searches.
Today, Mark Flatten of the Washington Examiner published a map that shows people are worried about their privacy—and which states are taking action to protect cellphone geolocation information.
With new revelations about government’s ability to collect electronic data, state legislators will feel compelled to act in the absence of federal action. John Pezold, a state representative in Georgia, has said “[Citizens are] becoming increasingly wary that their lives are going to be no longer their own…We have got to protect that.”
To protect that value known as privacy, it’s important for legislators across the country to deliberate to find the appropriate balance between the important values of ensuring citizens’ privacy and protecting public safety.
John Stephenson is Director of the Task Force on Communications and Technology at the American Legislative Exchange Council. Follow him on twitter at @stephenj05