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Virginia Bill Would Restrict Police Access to Historical Location Data, Thwart Federal Surveillance Program

RICHMOND, Va. (Jan. 16, 2018) – A Virginia bill would end warrantless collection of a person’s historical location data. The legislation would not only increase privacy protections in the state, it would also hinder some federal surveillance programs.

Del. Betsy Carr (D-Richmond) introduced House Bill 604 (HB604) on Jan. 8. The legislation would prohibit a provider of electronic communication services or remote computing services from disclosing location data to an investigative or law-enforcement officer except pursuant to a search warrant. Currently, a warrant is required for the disclosure of real-time location data only. HB604 would expand the law to cover historical location data.

IMPACT ON FEDERAL PROGRAMS

Federal agencies tap into the information gathered by state and local law enforcement through “fusion centers” and a federal program known as the Information Sharing Environment (ISE).

According to its website, the ISE “provides analysts, operators, and investigators with information needed to enhance national security. These analysts, operators, and investigators… have mission needs to collaborate and share information with each other and with private sector partners and our foreign allies.”

In other words, ISE serves as a conduit for the sharing of information gathered without a warrant.

In a nutshell, the federal government encourages and funds surveillance networks at the state and local level across the U.S., thereby gaining access to a massive data pool on Americans without having to expend the resources to collect the information itself. By placing restrictions on surveillance, state and local governments limit the data available that the feds can access.

Passage of HB604 would limit the amount of location data Virginia law enforcement agencies can gather. If state agencies don’t have access to the data, they can’t share them with federal databases.

WHAT’S NEXT

HB604 was referred to Referred to Committee for Courts of Justice where it must pass by a majority vote before moving forward in the legislative process.