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surveillance state

Police can track your geolocation without a warrant. This bipartisan bill would change that.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers from both houses of Congress on Wednesday introduced the Geolocation Privacy and Surveillance Act (GPS Act) to require law enforcement to get a search warrant before collecting geolocation data.

"Outdated laws shouldn't be an excuse for open season on tracking Americans, and owning a smartphone or fitness tracker shouldn't give the government a blank check to track your movements," said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), a prominent Senate civil libertarian who introduced the legislation with Reps. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and John Conyers (D-Mich.). "Law enforcement should be able to use GPS data, but they need to get a warrant. This bill sets out clear rules to make sure our laws keep up with the times."

The bill would especially affect police use of stingrays, surveillance devices that trick your phone into thinking it's talking to a cell tower. As the ACLU explains, stingrays "also gather information about the phones of countless bystanders who happen to be nearby," all without a warrant. Last year, a federal judge ruled warrantless stingray surveillance unconstitutional, but that decision did not effectively halt the practice.

Several variations of the GPS Act have been introduced since 2011, but the bills have never passed.