New Law Requires Warrants for Cell Phone Tracking

Affiliate: ACLU of Maine
July 9, 2013 12:00 am

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Maine Legislature Overturns Governor’s Veto

July 9, 2013

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AUGUSTA, Maine – A new law requiring warrants for cell phone tracking was enacted today after the Maine Legislature voted to override a governor’s veto of LD 415, “An Act to Require a Warrant to Obtain the Location Information of a Cell Phone or Other Electronic Device.” The bill was sponsored by Sen. Roger Katz (R-Augusta).

“We are thrilled that the legislature recognized the importance of protecting Mainers’ privacy and stepped up to make sure this bill became law,” said Shenna Bellows, Executive Director of the ACLU of Maine. “As technologies advance, it’s important that the law keeps up. With these warrant requirements in place, privacy protections in Maine are among the strongest in the nation.”

The law is the third in a package of privacy protections enacted by the legislature this session, joining laws that require warrants before law enforcement can obtain an individual’s text message content and cell phone records or place a camera on private property. LD 1377, “An Act to Protect Cellular Telephone Privacy,” sponsored by Sen. Katz, became law yesterday after Gov. LePage took no action on the bill, which easily passed in the Senate and the House. LD 1040, “An Act To Prohibit the Placement of Cameras and Electronic Surveillance Equipment on Private Property without the Written Permission of the Landowner,” sponsored by Sen. Doug Thomas (R-Ripley), became law without the governor’s signature on June 29.

The ACLU of Maine made privacy a priority this session, working with legislators from both sides of the aisle on a privacy package to protect Mainers from overreaching government surveillance. In addition to the bills requiring warrants for cell phone tracking, text message content and cameras on private property, the ACLU also supported a bill to require warrants before law enforcement could spy on people with drones.

LD 236, “An Act To Protect the Privacy of Citizens from Domestic Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Use,” passed the Senate and House before being vetoed by the governor. Unfortunately, the legislature failed to override the veto. Although the governor has said he will issue an executive order directing the Commissioner of Public Safety to establish guidelines for the use of drones, that action is not sufficient to safeguard privacy in the face of powerful drone technology, said the ACLU of Maine.

“We’re disappointed that the governor supported warrant requirements for some new technologies but not others,” said Bellows. “We can’t just pick and choose when the Constitution applies and when it doesn’t. The ACLU of Maine will continue pushing for privacy protections that ensure our police practices are in line with the Constitution.”

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