An article ran in the Star Tribune today about the Kelsey Smith Act, a bill being presented in the MN legislature that would require phone companies to triangulate and disclose the location of a cell phone whenever the police ask for it. No court order or subpoena needed.
It's being billed as a way to find kidnapping victims. And indeed, triangulating cell signals is an important tool for finding lost people—that's how James Kim's family was found. But no court oversight whatsoever? Making it possible for the police to get the whereabouts of any cell phone owner, regardless of whether or not there is a real emergency? Creepy!
What's so bizarre isn't that people are willing to hand over that kind of authority to the cops, or don't think through the privacy implications of their proposals. It's that discussion of the privacy implications of this bill is nowhere to be found in the article. There's just no mention. It's presented as this common-sense bill that will save children. Are privacy advocates so few and far between that the writer completely failed to think of the civil liberties angle of the story? Or was it edited out?