New Legislation May Change the Future of Geolocation Equipment

Geolocation has become a widely used technological tool for governmental, public and private agencies and private citizens in the past, few years, and the technology has become quite advanced during that time. But with any such type of technology where privacy may be a concern, legislation has been created to address the limitations and the legal guidelines for geolocation technology.

Private investigators employing geolocation technology must ensure this developing legislation to ensure that their use of geolocation technology remains in the parameters of the law.

The Geolocation Privacy and Surveillance (GPS) Act

Congressman Jason Chaffetz introduced the Geolocation Privacy and Surveillance (GPS) Act earlier this year in an effort to better define the legal factors and considerations regarding the use of electronically obtained location data. This piece of bi-partisan legislation is designed to provide commercial entities and private citizens with clear guidelines on how and when geolocation technology can be used and when the information obtained from this type of technology can be accessed.

The GPS Act is con-sponsored by 13 lawmakers, and companion legislation is expected to be introduced by Senators Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) and Mark Kirk (R-Illinois).

“We need to make sure laws are keeping up with technology to protect our privacy,” said Chaffetz. He also reiterated that legislation is necessary to ensure that individuals may not be tracked without their knowledge or consent, unless a warrant is obtained by a judge.

Clarifying Existing Legislation

Although legislation is clear when it says that GPS devices cannot be attached to a vehicle (in the Supreme Court case, U.S. v. Jones), the laws, up until this point, were a bit muddy when it came to geolocation information obtained from other types of devices, such as smartphones or OnStar systems.

The new legislation (H.R. 1312) addresses all domestic law enforcement acquisitions of geolocation technology, and it creates criminal penalties for tracking a person using geolocation information without their consent.

The GPS Act is supported by a number of associations and agencies, including the Americans Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).