Minnesota Senate Passes Crackdown on Cellphone Tracking

By:  Joe Wolverton, II, J.D.
Minnesota Senate Passes Crackdown on Cellphone Tracking

The Minnesota state Senate voted April 22 to place severe restrictions on the tracking of individuals using cellphone data.

By a vote of 56-1, state senators voted to “require a special tracking warrant when a device is used to find a person’s location by their cell phone or other electronic devices.”

Specifically, the bipartisan-backed SF 2466 mandates:

A government entity may not obtain the location information of an electronic device without a tracking warrant. A tracking warrant granting access to location information must be issued only if the government entity shows that there is probable cause the person who possesses an electronic device is committing, has committed, or is about to commit a crime.

One of the sponsors of the legislation, state Senator Brandon Petersen, is “working on a comprehensive, nation-leading regulatory framework around how government manages people’s personal data,” the Minnesota Post reported.

“I think the encouraging thing is it’s an issue that resonates on both sides of the aisle,” the Post quoted Petersen saying. “There are a lot of questions that need to be answered. In the 21st-century, what does the Fourth Amendment look like?”

This is a critical question and one that many state legislators are beginning to answer.

For example, in a story published on February 5, the Associated Press reported, “State lawmakers around the nation are proposing bills to curtail the powers of law enforcement to monitor and track citizens.”

The message from these states to Capitol Hill, the story says, is “if you don't take action to strengthen privacy, we will.”

AP reported that 14 states are currently considering surveillance-nullifying bills, a figure also reported by the Tenth Amendment Center.

It’s this problem of data collection and sharing by and among law enforcement that troubles many constitutionalists and civil libertarians. As the AP wrote:

Supporters say the measures are needed because technology has grown to the point that police can digitally track someone's every move.

Devices such as license plate readers and cellphone trackers "can tell whether you stayed in a motel that specializes in hourly rates, or you stopped at a tavern that has nude dancers," said David Fidanque, director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon.

"It's one thing to know you haven't violated the law, but it's another thing to know you haven't had every one of your moves tracked," he said.

The tracking is rampant. Based on reports of the number of domestic phone calls being recorded by the National Security Agency, the Obama administration must have probable cause to suspect millions of us of threatening national security.

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