You're Going to Need a Warrant For That, Officer

Last year Yasir Afifi, a 20-year-old U.S.-born citizen, found a strange device attached to his car. When he posted a photo of it online, the FBI showed up at his home two days later. They wanted their GPS tracking device back. The FBI had been tracking Afifi’s movement for months without his knowing about it. Moreover, the agency did so without a warrant and apparently based on the flimsy rationale that his friend wrote a blog they felt was questionable. This type of warrantless tracking seems to be an increasingly common government practice.

Following this incident, as well as revelations about how much location information Apple and Google are storing about their customers, there has been a significant public outcry over the privacy of location information. Congress has held a number of hearings on the topic and today Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) introduced companion bills in the Senate and House, respectively, to protect location privacy. The bills not only require law enforcement to get a warrant based on probable cause before accessing location information, but also regulate the use of this information by businesses. With location tracking cases popping up all over the country, this would provide a strong and clear national standard for law enforcement.

Disclosing location information can be particularly harmful to victims of stalking and domestic violence . It can reveal individual movements for months or years, including things like medical information (visits to a therapist or an abortion clinic), First Amendment-protected activity (attendance at a church or political protest), or personal habits (visits to a gun range or bar). It can also be just plain embarrassing – maybe you were at a bar when you said you were at church. Requiring a warrant will not deny the police information they need, it just mandates judicial review to ensure that authorities have a good reason to access such sensitive information.

This is already the law in Oregon, where the state’s Supreme Court held that tracking is the equivalent of a search as defined by the state constitution and therefore requires a warrant. The court said GPS tracking was a violation of an individual’s right to privacy and, unlike simply viewing a vehicle tracking device, it significantly limits freedom from scrutiny.

As technology has advanced, law enforcement has been quick to adopt new surveillance tools, but our privacy laws have not kept pace . We applaud Sen. Wyden and Rep. Chaffetz for bills that work towards bringing them in line. Please go here to ask your Members of Congress to co-sponsor this important piece of legislation.

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@jakeriley

Did Yasir Afifi sue? Please tell me he did!

Ramona Walker

pLEASE STOP THIS SORT OF THING FROM HAPPENING. IT OFFENDS MY SENSE OF PATRIOTISM.

Bob Egan

If any government agencies want to find the 'real' crooks they don't have to leave Washington.

Start with the ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES AND CONTINUE WITH THE BANKERS AND WALL STREET, THEY CAN FINISH UP WITH the big corporations.

Dope dealers, illegal immigrants and terrorists are the smallest of our problems! We can completely drop terrorists if we stop backing Israel, and start treating all people equal!!

Anonymous

what these CIA pigs are doing in Pakistan? when someone will start killing these bastards, then they will run....remember Daniel Pearl? THe govt and Army cant do this...but radicalized individuals can...We hate USA and its fucked up policies...their aid and every thing belongs to them...why the fuck are they in Pakistan? to destroy our country? all bomb explosions happened in Pakistan are carried out by CIA (our great friends) We know this and time is coming that all nation will retaliate....FUCK USA n its POLICIES

Anonymous

what these CIA pigs are doing in Pakistan? when someone will start killing these bastards, then they will run....remember Daniel Pearl? THe govt and Army cant do this...but radicalized individuals can...We hate USA and its fucked up policies...their aid and every thing belongs to them...why the fuck are they in Pakistan? to destroy our country? all bomb explosions happened in Pakistan are carried out by CIA (our great friends) We know this and time is coming that all nation will retaliate....FUCK USA n its POLICIES

Anonymous

in the name of PATRITISM...we should also start killing these American pigs roaming in our streets like USA is doing in AFghanistan, Libya, Iraq, Pakistan and in Yemen....we dont need a proof that these bastards are destroying our country...like US never offer a proof when it kills....get out of our country and shove the so called aid up in your mother's arses...FUCK OBAMA AND FUCK CIA

David James

Unfortunately, surveilance is legal for anyone to do.

However, what is illegal is the attaching something to, or touching, someone's property without a warrant.

If they want to watch people, let them find other ways that do not infringe on rights to be let alone.

Doug

It's time we educate our selves on law enforcement and brush up on our constitutional rights. The constitution is a contract between the citizens of this country and the government. It protects us from the government.

Anonymous

When I first read about that case I always thought he should have taken the gadget, and since it was magnetic, driven to the nearest dockyard and stuck it to the hull of some freighter bound for BoraBora or some such. Let them track it across the ocean.

Then again he'd probably get jumped by a swat team for suspicious activities.

Anonymous

How do these bills relate to the recent updated manual that the FBI released? According to that, the FBI has MORE authority to track people without warrants. Would these bills supercede those guidelines?

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