House to Hold Hearing Tomorrow on GPS Act

Published On May 16, 2012 | By Melissa Maalouf | General
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On Thursday, May 17, the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security will hold a hearing on H.R. 2168, the Geolocational Privacy and Surveillance Act (“GPS Act”).

The GPS Act was jointly introduced in June 2011 by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Rep. Jason Caffetz (R-UT) with the intent of creating a legal framework to give government agencies, companies, and individual citizens clear guidelines for when and how geolocation information can be accessed and used.  The Act is modeled on Federal Wiretapping statutes, and would require law enforcement agencies to obtain a warrant before acquiring an individual’s geolocation information from a private company.  It would also require warrants when law enforcement agencies want to directly monitor individuals’ movements, using installed tracking devices or similar tools.

The Act would also in effect implement the Digital Due Process Coalition’s principle for ECPA reform regarding location tracking, which states that a government entity may only access or require a covered entity to provide location information regarding a mobile device with a warrant issued based on a showing of probable cause.

In emergency situations, the Act would allow law enforcement officers to obtain the information that they need immediately and then seek a warrant later.  The Act would also contain exceptions to the warrant requirement in cases where the individual tracked is reasonably believed to be in danger or has requested help, the individual’s geolocation information is publicly available, a mobile device has been stolen, or the individual (or their parent/guardian in the case of minors) has consented to the tracking.

Although the Act would permit service providers to collect geolocation information in the normal course of business, it makes clear that they are only allowed to share or sell customers’ data with the customers’ consent.

According to press reports, the hearing will focus primarily on the circumstances in which acquiring geolocation information will be permitted.  The witnesses attending the hearing will include:  (1) John Ramsey, National Vice President of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association;  (2) Joseph I. Cassily, Past President of the National District Attorneys Association; (3) Edward J. Black, President and CEO of the Computer & Communications Industry Association; and (4) Catherine Crump, Staff Attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union.

The hearing will be held at 10 a.m., in room 2141 of the Rayburn Building.

About The Author

Melissa Maalouf’s practice focuses on advising a broad range of clients, from start-ups to established companies, on both U.S. and international data privacy and security issues. Melissa assists clients in drafting appropriate website disclosures, implementing legally-compliant e-commerce flows, responding to FTC Section 5 and state AG enforcement actions, analyzing advertising claims, and children’s online privacy and safety issues. She also regularly helps clients obtain certification under the EU-US Safe Harbor and navigate compliance with divergent international privacy laws.