Passage of Amendment Could Place Texas at Nation’s Vanguard in Privacy Protections for Cell-Phone and Internet Use

Contact: Tom Hargis, Director of Communications, ACLU of Texas, 713.942.8146 x103 or 832.2914776;

HOUSTON – A bill nearing passage in the Legislature would protect Texans’ privacy by limiting the use by law enforcement of cell-phone location data. On Monday, the Texas House approved an amendment to SB 1052 that would require law enforcement agencies to secure a probable cause warrant before using cell-phone tracking technology to follow suspects or to access the contents of email messages from cell phones or internet providers.

“At present, law enforcement can request your location records from your cell-phone provider with no warrant or judicial oversight, while remaining in complete secrecy,” said Matthew Simpson, policy strategist for the ACLU of Texas. “Clearly, policy has not kept pace with technology. Approval of this proposal by state legislators would place Texas at the nation’s forefront of demanding privacy for its citizens when it comes to personal cell-phone use.”

The bill includes emergency provisions, such that location-data requests by law enforcement can be expedited in certain cases, including life-threatening circumstances.

“This amendment very purposefully balances the investigative needs of law enforcement with the privacy rights of Texans,” said Terri Burke, executive director of the ACLU of Texas. “It presents a golden opportunity for our state to take the lead on an issue important to the national discussion of privacy in the digital age.”

“By approving this amendment,” said Rebecca Robertson, legal and policy director for the ACLU of Texas, “our legislators would take a significant step to preserve the Fourth Amendment rights of Texas citizens, protecting them from potential unreasonable searches and seizures that could take place entirely outside judicial review.”