ACLU applauds Gov. McAuliffe for signing cell phone tracking bill

constitutionThe ACLU of Virginia applauds Gov. Terry McAuliffe for signing House Bill 17- a bipartisan bill whose chief co-patrons were Delegates Bob Marshall (R-Manassas) and Betsy Carr (D-Richmond). The new law will create a warrant requirement for law enforcement seeking to access the real time data on the location of an individual’s cell phone.

“The success of this legislation shows that a majority of legislators and our Governor now recognize the value that Virginians place on their privacy,” said Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, executive director of the ACLU of Virginia. “The fact that our government has the ability to track innocent Virginians does not mean it should. Law abiding Virginians expect, and deserve to go about their daily lives without fear that our government is watching them.”

HB 17 establishes a warrant requirement to access “real-time” location information, but does not address the need for a warrant requirement for law enforcement to obtain an individual’s historical cell site location information.

“We commend Delegates Marshall and Carr for their leadership on this important legislation, and while we are pleased that law enforcement will now need to obtain a warrant before spying on the real-time movements of Virginians, Virginians’ privacy remains in jeopardy until we extend the warrant requirement to include data on where Virginians have been,” said Gastañaga. “A Virginian’s historic location information can be used to map their past, including visits to political rallies, doctor’s offices, and visits with friends – information the government has no business knowing without a warrant.”

“We look forward to working with Governor McAuliffe, members of his cabinet, and the members of the General Assembly, especially the members of the new Ben Franklin Liberty Caucus, to address privacy issues more broadly including assuring full implementation of the Government Data Collection and Dissemination Practices Act as it applies to the use by law enforcement of new technologies like drones and automated license plate readers,” Gastañaga concluded.


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