Kirk, coalition reintroduces GPS privacy act

  • Sen. Mark Kirk

    Sen. Mark Kirk Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

Updated 3/21/2013 7:05 PM

With technological advancements outpacing privacy laws, U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk joined with a bipartisan coalition Thursday to reintroduce legislation aimed at limiting how law enforcement officials can acquire and use GPS data in smartphones.

The GPS Act -- filed in the Senate and House by Kirk, Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Utah Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz -- would require officials to have a warrant before acquiring GPS tracking information from devices including cellphones.


The law would make exceptions for cases of emergencies or national security, but would extend warrant requirements to acquisition from commercial service providers and government tracking devices.

Kirk, in a November 2011 video shortly after the bill was introduced, noted that the Constitution protects against unreasonable searches and seizures. However, he said, the current electronic privacy law dates back to 1986, when, Kirk said, "the Apple II was cutting edge." That time, it failed to move forward.

"Congress should set a clear legal standard to safeguard your digital privacy," Kirk said in the video, calling the GPS Act a way to protect one's basic civil rights.

In addition to requiring the government to show probable cause to obtain a warrant, the legislation would create criminal penalties for surreptitiously using an electronic device to track a person's movements that parallel those for wiretapping.

Kirk, who recovered at home for a year following a 2012 ischemic stroke, returned to Congress Jan. 3.

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