Geolocation Privacy Legislation

Updated February 10, 2016

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

Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016

The omnibus funding measure for Fiscal Year 2016 includes the following provision applicable to the Department of Transportation (Section 143 of Division L):

View law
(congress.gov)
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.

5 U.S.C. chapter 5, subchapter II, refers to the Administrative Procedure Act.

New The DOT budget request for FY 2017 includes a legislative proposal to repeal the above provision. View source, 4.3 MB PDF

Legislative History

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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
12/18/2015
H.R. 2029
Senate
Subcommittee
Senate
Committee
Senate
Floor
Skipped Senate
Floor
12/18/2015
Public Law 114-113
6/23/2015
H.R. 2577
6/25/2015
H.R. 2577
Skipped 12/18/2015
H.R. 2029

The provision originated in the House version of the transportation appropriations bill (Section 144). View source (congress.gov)

The Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2015, included the same provision (Section 417 of Division K). View law (2 MB PDF)

The FY 2013 transportation funding bill included similar language (Section 429). It passed the House but was not enacted. View source (congress.gov)

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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 February, 2, 2015, Representatives Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Ted Poe (R-TX), and Suzan Delbene (D-WA) reintroduced the legislation for the 114th Congress. The bill was referred to the House judiciary committee.

Rep. Lofgren previously introduced the bill in the 112th and 113th Congresses, originally as the ECPA 2.0 Act of 2012.

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Location Privacy Protection Act

The Location Privacy Protection Act of 2015 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 November 10, 2015, Senator Al Franken (D-MN) reintroduced this legislation for the 114th Congress. The bill was referred to the judiciary committee.

Sen. Franken introduced prior versions of the bill during the 112th and 113th Congresses, with one passing the committee level in December 2012.

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