California approves Location Privacy Act: ‘Get a warrant’

By Zack Whittaker

A new bill designed to require law enforcement to obtain a warrant before collecting any GPS or location data from a cellphone or smartphone has been passed by California state legislators.

The Location Privacy Bill 2012, which was co-sponsored by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), received strong cross-party support, and was passed by an overwhelming majority of 63–11.

The bill has yet to be signed by the California Governor Jerry Brown, which as the EFF notes, could be rejected. Brown vetoed a similar bill in 2011 which would require police to obtain a search warrant before searching the contents of an arrested suspect’s mobile device.

He said, in response to the vetoed SB 914: “The courts are better suited to resolve the complex and case-specific issues relating to constitutional search-and-seizures protections.”

As Ars Technica points out, the ACLU found earlier this year that many law enforcement agencies around the U.S. do not “consistently obtain a warrant” for collecting location data from cell networks.

The current law, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act 1986 does not provide the clear protection of personal and sensitive information, such as location data, which gives law enforcement the ability to obtain such data with little or no oversight by the courts.

The EFF said in a statement that it “urge[s] Governor Brown to have California take the lead on this issue and sign SB 1434,” saying that it “strikes a sensible balance between keeping the public safe and preserving our privacy.”