San Francisco Chronicle

(Updates with bill information starting in third paragraph)
May 17 (Bloomberg) — U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy unveiled legislation today that would require the government to obtain a search warrant to access location information gathered by companies from their customers’ wireless devices.
The bill seeks to update the 25-year-old Electronic Communications Privacy Act, according to Leahy, a Vermont Democrat who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee and wrote the original law.
“Updating this law to reflect the realities of our time is essential to ensuring that our federal privacy laws keep pace with new technologies and the new threats to our security,” Leahy said in a statement.
Under the bill, the U.S. government must obtain a search warrant or a court order in compliance with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to obtain or use location information from individual’s smartphone or other mobile device.
Apple Inc. and Google Inc., makers of software used in millions of smartphones, face increasing scrutiny over the way they collect, store and use customer location data from mobile users. Executives from the two companies defended their handling of location data at a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing May 10, saying they do not track individuals.
Apple and Google, along with Facebook Inc., will answer more questions at a Senate Commerce Committee hearing on Thursday.
The Leahy legislation is “an effort to address government access to locational data, which 25 years ago was not an issue” and today is subject to conflicting court rulings, Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Washington-based Electronic Privacy Information Center, said in an interview.
Rotenberg said the bill is a “good proposal” that clarifies the legal standard for government to access location data. He also called it a “narrow update” that doesn’t address how companies can use customers’ location information for commercial purposes such as mobile advertising.
–Editors: Michael Shepard, Allan Holmes
via Leahy Seeks Update of Digital Privacy Law to Add Smartphones.
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By Published On: May 17th, 2011Comments Off on Leahy Seeks Update of Digital Privacy Law to Add Smartphones

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