MCCRC testimony on HB257 historical location data bill by Del. Moon

MCCRC submitted written testimony today in support of an “admirably succinct” bill, HB257, by Delegate David Moon (D-20, Montgomery County) that would address a major loophole in Maryland electronic surveillance law: the ability to view historical location data.

By adding just two phrases to the Maryland Code (“OR HISTORICAL DATA,” ‘that is “OR WAS” generated by or derived from the operation of [an electronic device]’) and one paragraph, the bill would require law enforcement agencies to obtain court permission to examine historical location data obtained from electronic devices such as cell phones or cell phone records.

As can be imagined, access to historical location data is a treasure trove of information about you in today’s cell phone age.  As Sara Love, ACLU-Maryland’s legislative director put it, “We believe [historical tracking] is in some ways a more serious invasion of privacy [than real-time tracking]  – where you have been says a lot about you (do you go to the gym?  A bar?  Spend the night at someone else’s house?).” 

The Electronic Privacy Information Center’s extensive entry on locational privacy makes the added important point that “When individuals are moving about in public and private spaces, they do not expect to be tracked wherever they go. […] Cell phones, smartphones, and other mobile devices (e.g. laptops and tablets) can be located whenever they are turned on. Current location-tracking technologies can be used to pinpoint users of mobile devices in several ways. … historical location can frequently be discerned from service provider records.”


Selected 2009 historical cell phone location data for German Bundestag delegate Malte Spitz. Map produced by German newsweekly “Die Zeit.” Click image or link for a closer view and to run the time-lapse movie of his September 2009 to February 2010 movements.

As we note in our testimony, one extremely compelling demonstration of using service provider records was provided by German Green Party delegate Malte Spitz in 2009.  He obtained a six month log of his own records from Deutsche Telekom (T-Mobile owner) and, in collaboration with the German newsweekly Die Zeit, was able to construct a daily, often hourly and even minute to minute journal of his movements over that time span.

We’re proud to support this bill, and grateful to Delegate Moon for introducing it.  The bill has 12 co-sponsors (including  nine fellow Judiciary Committee members including Delegate Will Smith, also D-20). Montgomery County residents may want to contact Delegates Moon, Smith, and Morales (D-19) to commend them for advancing this bill, but also Delegate Kathleen Dumais (D-15, Potomac/Poolesville) to urge her to support it as well.

Written testimony follows:

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