Thursday, February 3, 2011

Senator Proposes Cell Phone Tracking Legislation

CNET reports that Oregon Senator Ron Wyden is sponsoring legislation to track cell phones without a warrant.  An interview with the Senator is posted here.
I found the following to be the most interesting quote:
My sense is -- and we'll see as we get the bill introduced -- we'll see something of a division of opinion in terms of what we're proposing. I think there are some in the Justice Department and law enforcement and intelligence generally who think that this field really does need some clarity and there's a role for precisely what we're doing.
And then there are some who won't be in favor of legislation and will largely say, "look it's a dangerous time and we need to get our hands on all of this information." To that I say: that kind of attitude will not produce the kind of certainty and predictability that we need to address legitimate national security interests and a respect for people's privacy. This is more likely to cause confusion and frustration of interests in both areas.
It seems too early to comment on the bill – but I agree that clarity is needed in this issue.  My own view, as I expressed elsewhere, is that I would like to see the bill acknowledge a difference between law enforcement efforts to use historical cell phone information to solve a past crime, and a more general monitoring of an individual over an extended period of time.  The long-term monitoring raises additional privacy concerns.  One possible approach – not requiring a warrant for a brief period of historical data, but requiring a warrant to data over a longer period of time or to permit real-time tracking – seems to strike a balance between the needs of law enforcement and privacy interests.

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