Maine may become the first state to enact law requiring law enforcement agencies obtain a warrant before tracking cellphones and other forms of GPS-capable hardware. The bill, LD 415, passed Maine’s House 113 to 28. The Maine Senate already passed the bill 20 to 15.
LD 415 would institute a requirement that state agencies inform individuals that they are being tracked within the first three days. However, as Slate notes, there is an exception if the agency can “prove that secrecy is necessary.” If they do so, the informing can be pushed back to 180 days.
A small snag exists, however: the cost. According to LD 415′s ‘fiscal note,’ it would cost $234,000 to enact the bill. That sum represents its two year cost. Those funds must be raised or the law could simply fail. Christopher Cousins of BDN Maine reported on the fact earlier this week:
The Senate, which voted 20-15 to support the bill, will take up final action on the bill in the coming days, though the bill’s fiscal note of about $234,000 during the next two years might lead to its demise unless the Legislature can find funding.
It would be an incredible shame if the bill didn’t become law simply over the need for a quarter million dollars. LD 415 is not without fans. The state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union described the bill as “putting necessary privacy protections in place while allowing the police to protect our communities.”
The move by Maine to improve privacy protections of its citizens by adding warrant requirements to a number of potentially intrusive situations; in California and Texas, laws have been proposed to require warrants for the government when they wish to read private email, for example. The email issue, based on an archaic law that was written in the late 1980′s, allows emails older than 180 days, or that has been opened, to be read with a mere subpoena. Work has been underway to fix the issue on the national scale as well.
Assuming that Maine can find the money, it is poised to set an example for the rest of the country.
Top Image Credit: man pikin