Virginia House of Delegates Considers Bill to Restrict GPS Tracking

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We live in exciting times. Computing and space technologies are constantly improving. With modern cell phones, consumers have a world of information at their fingertips. People can go exploring off-trail in the woods, knowing that their GPS devices will lead them safely back to their parked vehicle. With so many amazing, sometimes life-saving functions, it can be easy to lose sight of the dangers posed by such a quickly advancing technology. GPS devices are obviously not a direct threat to our physical safety, but to our privacy.

Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of protecting individual privacy from the likes of Big Brother, requiring police to obtain a warrant before tracking suspects with GPS. Now, a bill is making its way through Virginia’s legal system to address citizen-on-citizen tracking. House Bill 807 proposes a fine of up to $500, and classifies the use of GPS tracking devices “through intentionally deceptive means and without consent” a Class 3 misdemeanor.

“You have to know about it, and you have to agree to it,” explains Del. Joe T. May, Republican sponsor of the bill. It passed the House Science and Technology Committee with an impressive 14-1 vote. Del. Scott A. Durovell, Democrat, represented the only against vote after he was unable to amend the bill to allow people to track their own vehicles for any reason. He referenced an employee who sometimes drives his family vehicle. “Sometimes I wonder where she’s going,” said Surovell. “I do think as the owner of a vehicle that I should be able to know where my car’s going.”

“Vehicles don’t move themselves around,” May was quick to rebut. “We don’t care much about cars.” In fact, the bill has been in development for two years, after May was approached about a man who was legally tracked by an estranged wife. GPS devices are increasingly easy to access, and even easier to conceal, leaving citizen privacy more vulnerable than many law-makers are comfortable with. We’ve entered a new age of technology, so new rules are going to be developed to adjust.

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Marisa O'Connor

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