Texas Legislature
6:25 am
Wed May 22, 2013

Legislature Tightens Cell Phone Search Privacy

You may not be aware that currently police do not need a warrant to search through your GPS locator in your cell phone, but that is about to change. 

The house passed House Bill 1608, which was added as an amendment to Senate Bill 1052, and stops the warrantless search of a person’s cell phone records.

"The bill says the government cannot track you using your cell phone without a warrant based on probable cause. Of course there are exceptions for life-threatening situations, for felony fugitives or if a person loses or if their phone is stolen," said Rep. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, who authored the amendment.

Hughes said last year alone there were over a million requests by law enforcement to obtain the location data of cell phones used in the state of Texas.

"Until now police were only required to get a silent subpoena without anyone's knowledge and obtain information about your current movements and a history of your travels. Under current law, you as a citizen don't know if you've been tracked," Hughes said. 

Matt Simpson with the Texas Chapter of the ACLU applauded the bill that now requires police to obtain a warrant.

"This is a pretty exciting amendment. Hopefully we can go ahead and get this to the governor so we can let law enforcement know the process we expect and make sure everybody’s rights are appropriately balanced," Simpson said.

Simpson said if this bill is signed into law by Gov. Rick Perry, Texas will be the first state in the nation to require police to obtain a warrant to collect cell phone location information.

SB 1052 now heads to a conference committee, which it is likely to pass through, before heading to the governors desk.