The death of a Kansas teenager three years ago is the impetus behind a new law that will let law enforcement agencies track down missing persons by using their cell phone data.
Sponsored by Rep. Sheldon Johnson (DFL-St. Paul) and Sen. Yvonne Prettner Solon (DFL-Duluth), the law is named after Kelsey Smith, who was abducted and murdered in Kansas in 2007. Her body was found after her parents compelled her cell phone company to track down her phone’s location. Federal law allows — but does not require — that the companies provide that information.
The Kelsey Smith Act will require cell phone service providers to disclose their customers’ call location information in emergency situations. Using cell site towers, a cell phone company can triangulate the location of a cell phone or other wireless device to within close proximity. The law, effective Aug. 1, 2010, will require cell phone companies to reveal call location data in cases where an individual is missing and at risk of “death or serious physical harm.”
The new statute will mandate that the companies provide the data, under certain conditions. The law enforcement agency seeking the data must submit a written request, and service providers must establish protocols that allow them to respond to such requests.
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