TRENTON – Today, Senate Majority Leader Barbara Buono (D-Middlesex) will introduce legislation to require cell phone companies to disable a cell phone’s global positioning system (GPS) function at the customer’s request – a concern highlighted by a recent Wall Street Journal article reporting on instances of misusing cell phone tracking technology.
Global positioning systems used by cell phone companies have made it significantly easier for stalkers to track their victims. According to a U.S. Justice Department report last year, more than 25,000 adults in the U.S. are victims of GPS stalking annually. The proliferation of tracking technology in everyday life has led many victims of stalking and domestic violence to feel the unwelcome intrusion of electronic monitoring.
“In an online world, consumers across the state and the country are facing the daily loss of privacy that comes with the rise of tracking technology,” said Buono. “While many of us believe that carrying a cell phone makes us safer, for victims of stalking and domestic violence, as well as individuals who have privacy concerns, this is not the case. As more and more people unknowingly submit themselves to electronic monitoring, we are essentially creating opportunities for potential stalkers and opening the door to unforeseen dangers.”
Through cell phone GPS functions, phone companies know at all times where their customers’ cell phones are within a radius of less than 100 feet. While there are many benefits to location tracking technology on cell phones, there are unintended consequences.
“The Wall Street Journal article outlines numerous examples in which women have escaped abusive relationships only to be tracked down and murdered using this technology.” said Senator Buono. “These examples serve as a stark reminder of the potentially devastating effects that this invasion of privacy can have on unknowing consumers.
Senator Buono’s bill would also direct cell phone companies to inform customers who purchase a new cell phone, both verbally and in writing, that the phone’s GPS capability may be disabled. Additionally, a text message would be sent to current subscribers providing the customer with information on how to disable their phone’s GPS function.
“We need to ensure that all New Jersey citizens are properly informed of their cell phone’s GPS capabilities and are provided with the information to make an informed decision regarding its usage,” said Buono. “This is a precautionary measure that provides consumers with greater access to the information they need to shield themselves against any misuse of a cell phone’s tracking capabilities.”