New Businesses and Civil Rights Both Require Legal Change.

Location data produced by modern technology like GPS and cell phones can today be accessed by law enforcement agents without probably cause and a warrant, but Oregon Senator Ron Wyden has introduced legislation that would change that.

Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) this week welcomed U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R- Ill.) as a cosponsor of the Geolocation Privacy and Surveillance Act (GPS), making the joint announcement at a Retro Tech Fair sponsored by the Center for Democracy in Technology commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA). The new Act would require law enforcement to get a warrant before accessing historical or real-time location data about an individual from a technology provider or device, except in cases of national security, theft or fraud.

This is no trivial matter, either. Google, for example, reported today that it now gets an average of 31 US government requests for information about Google users every day, which is up 29% over the last 6 month period. The company says it complies with 93% of those requests. The percentage of those requests that involve location isn't broken out. For what it's worth, Google doesn't tell the governments of Turkey or Russia anything.

Data and location are both potential software development platforms with incredible, world-changing potential. They need to feel safe enough for users to engage with and for companies to trade in, if we're ever going to see that innovative potential realized.
The proposed US federal act announcement today was made with support from the ACLU on the Left and the Competitive Enterprise Institute on the political Right.

Laura W. Murphy, director of the ACLU's Washington Legislative Office, said, "As we live more and more of our lives online, it's crucial that our information and communications receive vigorous constitutional protections. We have seen how rapidly technology has outpaced our privacy rights and Sen. Wyden and Kirk's bill is a good first step toward rectifying that disparity."

Ryan Radia of the Competitive Enterprise Institute put it like this: "The reforms proposed in the GPS Act would benefit American businesses that offer innovative mobile ecosystems and the consumers who enjoy these platforms. If the burgeoning mobile marketplace is to realize its full potential, firms must have the freedom to offer robust privacy assurances to their users. The GPS Act would mark a major step forward in that direction."

Aaron Parecki, co-founder of Portland, Oregon's Geoloqi, one of the most interesting new location tracking startups online, said that the passage of the act would be a relief to him as a technology startup. "It's great because it requires law enforcement to get a warrant so that we don't have to worry about being pressured into giving out our users' location data," he told ReadWriteWeb.

Data and location are both potential software development platforms with incredible, world-changing potential. They need to feel safe enough for users to engage with and for companies to trade in, if we're ever going to see that innovative potential realized.