Location-Tracking Technology and Privacy

Policy Forum
January 26, 2011 12:00PM
Hayek Auditorium
Featuring Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR); Julian Sanchez, Research Fellow, Cato Institute; and Jim Harper, Director of Information Policy Studies, Cato Institute.

As location-sensitive cell phones, GPS devices, and digital assistants become more integral to daily living, law enforcement and intelligence agencies are rushing to exploit their potential. Records of the geolocation data these devices generate can provide the kind of detailed portrait of a person’s movements and activities that once required costly, 24/7 surveillance. Applications range from tracking fugitives to reconstructing a suspect’s travels to analyzing the movements of whole populations in search of “suspicious” behavior patterns.

As courts wrestle with the Fourth-Amendment status of this new form of monitoring, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) is drafting legislation to set standards for government access to geolocation data under both criminal law and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Senator Wyden will discuss his forthcoming proposal and Cato scholars Julian Sanchez and Jim Harper will comment, placing it in the context of the larger shifting legal and technological landscape. Join us for a discussion of geolocation data and the prospects for privacy protection in this emerging technological area.