SPRINGFIELD, Mo., Aug. 27, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- A class action lawsuit has been filed by Mary Hopwood against the State of Missouri to halt the enforcement House Bill No. 1108 also known as "Kelsey's Law." This new law requires telecommunications providers to disclose subscriber physical location information if a law enforcement officer alleges an emergency need. The new law also requires providers to do "ping locates" a/k/a cell tower triangulation to determine the precise physical location of a user. The suit alleges that Missouri's version of "Kelsey's Law" violates the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution which prevents states from passing laws that conflict with federal laws.
The suit claims the law conflicts with the Electronic Communications Privacy Act ("ECPA") passed by Congress in 1986. The ECPA details circumstances under which private location information may be disclosed. The suit alleges that Missouri's law announces a new, conflicting standard for disclosure and completely eliminates a customer's ability to sue for improper disclosure.
Missouri's new law allows a simple request and declaration of emergency to get protected ECPA information. The lawsuit notes that under federal law, wireless providers can refuse illegitimate requests but under Missouri's new law, the providers can only respond 'yes' regardless of whether or not the provider believes that a real emergency exists. Other states have more restrictive laws. For example, last week California's state legislature passed the Location Privacy Act of 2012 (SB-1434) which would make it mandatory for law enforcement agencies to obtain a warrant before gathering location tracking data.
As reported by the New York Times in a July 8, 2012 article, cell phone carriers responding to a congressional inquiry disclosed that they answered 1.3 million demands for subscriber information last year from law enforcement agencies seeking information. AT&T stated that its requests for information grew 15% last year at an incurred cost of over $8 million dollars.
Plaintiff Mary Hopwood is represented by Craig R. Heidemann and Nathan A. Duncan of the law firm of Douglas, Haun & Heidemann in Bolivar, Missouri. The case is currently pending in the United States District Court, Western District of Missouri (case number 2:12-cv-04238-MJW).
SOURCE Douglas, Haun & Heidemann