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Bill protecting cellphone location info advances

Published February 21, 2014 2:46 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A bill moving in the Utah Legislature would require law enforcement officers to get a judge to issue a warrant before they could collect location data from individuals' cellphones.

"The essential purpose behind it, again, is we assure and reassure Utahns that the Fourth Amendment matters. We're not coming to you because there has been a rash [of data collection] in Utah," said Rep. Ryan Wilcox, R-Ogden, sponsor of HB128. "We're going to make sure this is part of our statute and this isn't something we end up dealing with in Utah after the fact."

Marina Lowe, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, said a records request to state law enforcement agencies showed that some are getting warrants while others aren't. That proves, she said, that getting a warrant isn't an excessive burden and can be done quickly.

"None of us can dispute this is the modern version of our personal papers and effects," Wilcox said, holding his phone.

Chad Platt, of the Statewide Association of Prosecutors, said police normally get warrants already, which are issued under court rules, and the current system protects residents well.

Wilcox's HB128 gives law enforcement exceptions, allowing them to use location-tracking data in emergencies — in search-and-rescue situations, for example.

The measure won unanimous approval by the House Public Utilities and Technology Committee and moves to the full House.

Robert Gehrke