Electronic Tracking Devices

Through the use of inexpensive computer software or the toggle of a smart phone switch, anyone can follow another person’s every move.  Now, although his bill failed to pass two consecutive years, a Virginia lawmaker is trying once again to place limitations on who can lawfully use electronic devices to track another individual.  Delegate Joe May has raised awareness about how easily one’s privacy can be invaded—but some say restrictions could hamper their investigations.

May’s bill was sent back to committee after it sparked debate this legislative session.  It restricted tracking a person without a warrant–and this year, would have granted law enforcement agencies exception. But private investigators protested and said it limited their ability to do their job. So May and the Joint Commission on Technology and Science are now revising it, although he says not much will change.

“We have it reduced I guess, to a page or page-and-a-half and you have heard my comment earlier, that some of the other states who have tried it have ended up with pages, and pages, and pages of exceptions, and exclusions, and carve outs until they’re virtually impossible to interpret.  Ours is very clean, and the real challenge right now is getting our colleagues  comfortable with something that is really, really new,” says May.

May says technology is evolving so quickly that it’s hard to draft legislation that addresses every exception. May sponsored the bill after a constituent complained that his ex-wife had paid a private investigator to track his whereabouts after the two had divorced.

–Tommie McNeil

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