The Law of Government Access to Location Data

Nicole Ozer (ACLU of Northern California)
Business & Strategy Yerba Buena Salon 4-6

Nicole Ozer, Technology and Civil Liberties Policy Director at the ACLU of Northern California, will share expertise and insight on the state of the law and government practice on the use of location-aware technology to assist in criminal investigations, especially government acquisition and use of information generated by companies that provide these technologies.

Several of the ACLU’s efforts, in Congress, the courts, and communities around the country, will be discussed:

Since August 2011, 35 ACLU affiliates across the country have filed over 381 requests in 32 states with local law enforcement agencies seeking to uncover when, why and how they are using cell phone location data to track Americans. The ACLU has received thousands of documents in response. Some of the most important findings about how law enforcement is engaged in location tracking will be highlighted.

The federal law that governs the privacy of electronic communications – including email, cell phone location records, Facebook posts, and search history – is the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), which was passed in 1986 and has never been meaningfully updated. Current ACLU federal and state legislative efforts to modernize existing law and introduce new location privacy laws will be summarized.

In January 2012, the Supreme Court unanimously rules in United States v. Jones that the police violated the Constitution by placing a GPS device on a car and monitoring it for 28 days without a warrant. This is one of the first cases where the Supreme Court addressed expectations of privacy in new location technologies. The ACLU filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the Supreme Court. The implications for location services of this decision and cases in other jurisdictions around the country will be discussed.

Photo of Nicole Ozer

Nicole Ozer

ACLU of Northern California

Nicole A. Ozer is the Technology and Civil Liberties Policy Director at the ACLU of Northern California. She works on the intersection of new technology, privacy, and free speech and is spearheading the organization’s new online privacy campaign, Demand your dotRights.

Nicole graduated magna cum laude from Amherst College, studied comparative civil rights history at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, and earned her J.D. with a Certificate in Law and Technology from Boalt Hall School of Law, University of California Berkeley.

Before joining the ACLU, Nicole was an intellectual property attorney at Morrison & Foerster LLP. Nicole was recognized by San Jose Magazine for being one of 20 “Women Making a Mark” in Silicon Valley.

Nicole is the author of many legal and policy publications, including Location-Based Services: Time for a Privacy Check-In and Privacy & Free Speech: It’s Good for Business, a primer of case studies and tips for baking safeguards into the business development process. You can follow Nicole’s latest work @nicoleozer and the Bytes and Pieces blog at

  • Photo courtesy of Bob Hsiang Photography
  • Esri
  • AT&T Interactive
  • Google
  • Nokia, Location & Commerce
  • Facebook
  • Bing
  • Control Group
  • Localeze
  • MyCityWay
  • Socrata
  • Urban Airship
  • MapQuest

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