Maine Could Be First State to Require Warrant for GPS Tracking
CREDIT: Shutterstock: Spirit of America
California has historically led the way in mobile privacy legislation, but Maine could become the new leader. A bill that would require law enforcement officials to obtain a warrant before tracking cell phones' or other GPS-capable devices' locations has passed both branches of Maine's legislature.
Despite objections from Maine law enforcement officials, the state House voted 113-28 in favor of the bill, LD 415, and the Senate passed the legislation with as well, with a 20-15 vote. However, the government must still find the $234,000 it needs to enact the bill.
The Maine chapter of the ACLU called the vote "historic" in a blog post, saying the new law would put necessary privacy protections in place, while allowing the police to protect Maine communities.
The new law would also require law enforcement agencies to notify individuals that they had been tracked , and to do so within three days of receiving data from an owner's device. The notification window could be extended to 180 days if an agency could prove to a judge that secrecy was necessary, such as in cases involving suspected terrorism.
Finally, law enforcement agencies would be required to issue an annual report to the public detailing the number of times they sought location data, not unlike the transparency reports released by Google that include types and numbers of account information requests from governments and law enforcement. [See also: Suspected Spies and Terrorists Use Google ]
Three similar bills have been introduced at the federal level and referred to committee: The Geolocation Privacy and Surveillance Act (HR 1312, S 639), the Online Communications and Geolocation Protection Act (HR 983) and the Location Privacy Protection Act of 2012 (S 1223).
For now, Maine residents have the best chance of increased privacy protection, as long as their lawmakers can find the funding.