Charles Pope reports that Senator Ron Wyden wants to address an issue that has been one of my “hot button” issues — the hodge podge of decisions as to whether government needs a warrant or not when seeking our cell phone data. Pope reports:
…. Sen. Ron Wyden is among a number of lawmakers working to clarify the rules and remove uncertainty. The Oregon Democrat is teaming with Sen. James Risch, an Idaho Republican, to draft legislation that sets rules and standards that government must meet to collect the information and, to a lesser extent, define how it can be used. The House also has held hearings on the issue.
Though Wyden says he’s open to suggestions, he pledges a fairly hard line on the standard that government must meet.
“They have to show cause and a real basis in evidence for this information,” he said, adding that such a standard has been required for other purposes for many years and is well understood.
Wyden’s model would essentially follow existing law governing wiretaps with regard to court authority and penalties for violating the rules. There would be exceptions in time of war and flexibility to act in an emergency with the understanding that a retroactive warrant would be sought. The privacy protections would extend only to U.S. citizens. Foreign nationals would have far fewer protections.
The legislation would also provide criminal penalties for surreptitiously using an electronic device to track a person’s movements. That feature is aimed at hackers and stalkers. For instance, if a woman’s ex-husband taps her phone, he is breaking the law. Wyden would treat hacking the woman’s GPS to track her movements as a similar offense.
Read more on The Oregonian.
If the Senator is serious about requiring court oversight and warrants, I wish him well. It’s time Congress undid some of the privacy erosion that has occurred due to the “third party doctrine.” If consumers are to make informed decisions about whether to use cloud services or other services, we need to know if we have a “reasonable expectation of privacy” and/or if a warrant will be required for the government to obtain our records or files. As it stands now, they might not need a warrant depending on what court or jurisdiction you’re in or whether the stars align just right on the day a bunch of judges hear your case.