Thursday, July 11, 2013

Warrant Now Required to Collect Maine Cell Phone Location Data

Maine now requiers warrants for cell phone location tracking
Nicola since 1972 via flickr
On 7/9/13 the Maine Legislature passed LD 415 and Maine joined Montana as one of only two states requiring police to get warrants before collecting cell phone location data. The Public Law, now SP0107 is summarized in this earlier post. The law provides important protections for citizens who can currently be tracked at the request of police.


LD 415 Passes Despite, Opposition, Recommendation and Veto

The law does four key things:

  1. It requires police to get warrants before collecting cell phone location data. 
  2. Limits the durration of the collection to 10 days, with a possible 30 day extension.  
  3. Mandates notification to the people tracked so they will know their data was collected. 
  4. Allows for warrantless data collection in emergency cases. 
The law did not have an easy go and owes a lot to the recent national news about domestic surveillance. The bill was opposed by the Maine Attorney General, given an "ought not to pass" recommendation by the judiciary committee, passed anyway on 6/27/13, was then vetoed by Governor Paul LePage on 7/8/13 and the veto was overridden on 7/9/13.

The law is entitled: "An Act To Require a Warrant To Obtain the Location Information of a Cell Phone or Other Electronic Device." The core language is at Title 16 MRSA § 642:
§ 642. Warrant needed for acquisition of location information:
Except as provided in this subchapter, a government entity may not obtain location information without a valid warrant issued by a duly authorized judge or justice using procedures established pursuant to Title 15, section 55.
A judge or justice may issue a warrant for the location information of an electronic device pursuant to this section for a period of time necessary to achieve the objective of the authorization, but in any case the warrant is not valid for more than 10 days after the issuance. A judge or justice may grant an extension of a warrant upon a finding of continuing probable cause and a finding that the extension is necessary to achieve the objective of the authorization. An extension may not exceed 30 days.
The law goes into effect 10/9/13. You can read the read the full text of the law here, and my earlier post detailing the changes here.