Press Release: HB 1608 protects cell phone customer privacy

Contact: Scott Henson, 512-417-0120

February 22, 2013

The Texas Electronic Privacy Coalition (TxEPC) today thanks Mineola Representative Bryan Hughes for filing legislation to protect the detailed location data produced by cell phones.

state-of-texas“The Constitution is still the basic framework that protects our liberty,” said Heather Fazio, of Texans for Accountable Government. “When the Bill of Rights was written, the framers kept all their personal information in their homes, and no one had invented location tracking. This bill will apply our constitutional rights to the new ways we collect and store personal information.”

HB 1608 requires law enforcement to get a search warrant for the detailed location data that is collected and stored about every cell phone customer.

“Cell phones communicate location information constantly,” said Greg Foster, of EFF-Austin. “Now the details of your life – your employer, your hobbies, your relationships, your religion, political meetings you attend – can all be gleaned from customer data held by your phone company. And police don’t need a warrant to get it. Representative Hughes’ bill creates reasonable privacy protections for all Texans.”

Congressional hearings last summer finally put some numbers around the amount of personal information police agencies collect from cell phone companies. According to the carriers themselves, there were 1.3 million requests for customer location data in 2011, and that number is increasing every year.

Servicing law enforcement now requires hundreds of staff people and most carriers have created a fee schedule for different types of data. “Surveillance has become so easy, thanks to the data collected and stored by your cell phone company, that it’s now ripe for abuse,” said Matt Simpson, ACLU of Texas. “In a free society, there have to be limits on the government’s ability to monitor people’s activities and associations – that’s just a basic premise of liberty. This bill simply requires a judge to take a look, and make sure a request for location data is reasonably likely to turn up evidence of crime in an investigation.”

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Lisa March 2, 2013 at 2:09 am

Please note that Senator Juan Hinojosa has also spearheaded this effort, and sponsored an identical bill for the Senate. The bill is SB 786 and has been referred to the Criminal Justice Committee.


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