Minnesota bills would ban cellphone tracking without a warrant

Two Minnesota bills that together ban law enforcement from obtaining cellphone location tracking information and data without a warrant passed its first committee hurdle. 

An Associated Press article reports, “On divided voice votes, the House Public Safety Committee advanced a pair of bills that impose a higher standard on law enforcement when they collect data from cellphones and other electronic location devices. Search warrants would be required in more instances, and the owner of the devices could receive notification within a few months that their information was accessed."

"Safety should not come at the expense of civil liberties," said Charles Samuelson, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota.

The Public Safety Committee sent the bills to the House Civil Laws Committee. That body also recommended passage and moved the legislation on to the Judiciary, Finance and Policy Committee. 

HF2553 and HF2288 would not only protect people in Minnesota from warrantless data gathering by state and local law enforcement, it will also end some practical effects of unconstitutional data gathering by the federal government.

NSA collects, stores, and analyzes data on countless millions of people without a warrant, and without even the mere suspicion of criminal activity. We know that the NSA tracks the physical location of people through their cellphones. In late 2013, the Washington Post reported that NSA is “gathering nearly 5 billion records a day on the whereabouts of cellphones around the world.” This includes location data on “tens of millions” of Americans each year – without a warrant.

We know that, through fusion centers, state and local law enforcement act as information recipients from various federal departments under Information Sharing Environment (ISE). We also know that ISE partners include the Office of Director of National Intelligence, which is an umbrella covering 17 federal agencies and organizations, including the NSA. State and local law enforcement share data up the chain with the feds.

We also know that the NSA expressly shares warrantless data with state and local law enforcement through a super-secret DEA unit known as the Special Operations Division (SOD). We know that information is being used for criminal prosecutions. And, we know from a Reuters report that most of this shared data has absolutely nothing to do with national security issues. Most of it involves routine criminal investigations.

This data sharing shoves a dagger into the heart of the Fourth Amendment. HF2553 and HF2288 will prevent state law enforcement from gathering cell phone location data and sharing it up the chain and it will make information vacuumed up by the feds and shared down the chain inadmissible in court, stopping a practical effect of NSA spying. 

ACTION ITEMS 

If you live in Minnesota, click HERE and call all House members.  Strongly, but respectfully urge every member to vote YES on HF2553 and HF2288.

If you live outside of Minnesota, click HERE to find out how to fight the NSA’s unconstitutional spying in your state.