US: The US needs consistent rules for how law enforcement agencies can access the ever-growing collection of location-based data from mobile devices, according to a US senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat. He said that he will soon introduce a bill that would require law enforcement agencies to get court-ordered warrants to get location-based information from smartphones and other mobile devices, instead of simple subpoenas or other methods without court oversight.
The increasing ability of mobile service providers to track customer locations raises “serious issues” for law enforcement and intelligence agencies, Wyden added. “This is a policy area where the law has not kept up with the times,” he said.
There’s confusion across the US about the current standard needed for law enforcement to get location information from mobile phones, with court rulings conflicting with each other, Wyden said.
The US Department of Justice has been reluctant to support a related push to rewrite the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), a 25-year-old law that sets out the rules for how law enforcement agencies can access electronic information, including e-mail messages and data stored in the cloud, as well as mobile tracking data.
Senator Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in September that an update of the ECPA would be a priority going forward.
But ECPA helps law enforcement agents track terrorists, computer hackers, drug traffickers and other criminals, James Baker, associate deputy attorney general at the DOJ, told the Judiciary Committee then. In some cases, quick access to mobile tracking information can save lives, he said.