Geolocation Privacy Legislation

Updated July 22, 2015

This page provides information on congressional bills that seek to clarify how personal location information may be used by law enforcement, companies, employers, and others. This page is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to influence, endorse, or express opinions on any ongoing legal deliberations.

Several U.S. states and non-U.S. jurisdictions have enacted laws establishing personal location privacy rights. However, current U.S. statute at the federal level does not provide clear protection of geolocation information.

Learn more about GPS and privacy

New FY 2016 Transportation Appropriations Bill

Section 144 of the House bill states, "None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to mandate global positioning system (GPS) tracking in private passenger motor vehicles without providing full and appropriate consideration of privacy concerns under 5 U.S.C. chapter 5, subchapter II." View source

The same language appeared in the omnibus spending act for FY 2015 (see below).

Bill Status

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House
Subcommittee
House
Committee
House
Floor
House-Senate
Conference
Committee
House
Floor
President
4/29/2015
H.R. 2577
5/13/2015
H.R. 2577
6/9/2015
H.R. 2577
 
Senate
Subcommittee
Senate
Committee
Senate
Floor
  Senate
Floor
 
6/23/2015
H.R. 2577
6/25/2015
H.R. 2577
TBD  

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Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2015

The omnibus spending measure for Fiscal Year 2015, signed December 16, 2014, includes language applicable to the Department of Transportation.

View law

Section 417 of Division K states, "None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to mandate global positioning system (GPS) tracking in private passenger motor vehicles without providing full and appropriate consideration of privacy concerns under 5 U.S.C. chapter 5, subchapter II."

The citation in Section 417 refers to the Administrative Procedure Act.

Legislative History

The House adopted a version of this provision during floor debate on the FY 2015 transportation funding bill. That version, introduced by Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL), had different wording than the final. View H.R. 4745, Sec. 432

Similar language appeared in the FY 2013 transportation funding bill passed by the House, but was not included in the final spending act for that year. View H.R. 5972, Sec. 429

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GPS Act

The Geolocation Privacy and Surveillance Act seeks to establish a legal framework that gives government agencies, commercial entities, and private citizens clear guidelines for when and how geolocation information can be accessed and used.

The bill would create a process whereby government agencies can get a probable cause warrant to obtain geolocation information in the same way that they currently get warrants for wiretaps or other types of electronic surveillance.

In addition, the GPS Act would prohibit businesses from disclosing geographical tracking data about its customers to others without the customers' permission.

Bill Status

On January 22, 2015, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) reintroduced the legislation for the 114th Congress. Their bills (S. 237 and H.R. 491) were referred to the House and Senate judiciary committees and the House intelligence committee.

Sen. Wyden and Rep. Chaffetz originally introduced the legislation during the 112th Congress, and the House judiciary committee held a hearing on it. The bills were reintroduced in the 113th Congress but saw no further movement.

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Online Communications and Geolocation Protection Act

The Online Communications and Geolocation Protection Act contains many of the same provisions as the GPS Act, but also includes safeguards for online communications.

Bill Status

On March 6, 2013, Representatives Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Ted Poe (R-TX), and Suzan DelBene (D-WA) reintroduced the legislation for the 113th Congress. The bill was referred to the House judiciary and intelligence committees.

Rep. Lofgren originally introduced the legislation as the ECPA 2.0 Act of 2012 during the 112th Congress, but it was not considered.

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Location Privacy Protection Act

The Location Privacy Protection Act of 2014 would prohibit companies from collecting or disclosing geolocation information from an electronic communications device without the user's consent. It provides exceptions for parents tracking their children, emergency services, law enforcement, and other cases.

The bill would also prohibit development and distribution of "stalking apps," establish an Anti-Stalking Fund at the Department of Justice, and take other steps to prevent geolocation-enabled violence against women.

Bill Status

On March 27, 2014, Senator Al Franken (D-MN) reintroduced this legislation for the 113th Congress. The bill was referred to the judiciary committee, which held a hearing about it on June 4, 2014. View hearing at senate.gov

Sen. Franken originally introduced the legislation during the 112th Congress, and it passed the committee in December 2012.

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