The California Senate Public Safety Committee will today be hearing arguments about the California Privacy Bill, which would provide more protection to consumers against law enforcement gaining access to cell phones. As currently written, the new bill would force law enforcement to get a warrant before they can gain access to location information and would mean that cell phone companies will have to disclose why and how often they are giving out this information in order to monitor the use of the law properly.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California and the Electronic Frontier Foundation are strongly in favor of the new bill, but it would seem that CTIA, the cell phone industry’s trade group, is not at all keen on releasing this kind of information to the public. In a letter written on 12 April and sent to the author of the bill, State Senator Mark Leno, CTIA declared its opposition to the new bill, claiming that it might “create confusion for wireless providers and hamper their response to legitimate law enforcement investigations”. CTIA also alleged that the bill will “create unduly burdensome and costly mandates on providers and their employers and are unnecessary as they will not serve wireless customers”.
The financial argument appears ludicrous given that cell phone companies give out such data on millions of occasions every year while the ACLU has written reports proving that despite routine law enforcement cell phone tracking, some agencies do obtain warrants, proving that it is possible to meet law enforcement needs while protecting the privacy of most Americans.