December 21, 2010 | By Kevin Bankston

2010 Trend Watch Update: Location Privacy

At the beginning of this year EFF identified a dozen important trends in law, technology and business that we thought would play a significant role in shaping digital rights in 2010, with a promise to revisit our predictions at the end of the year. Now, as 2010 comes to a close, we're going through each of our predictions one by one to see how accurate we were in our trend-spotting. Today, we're looking back on Trend #5, Location Privacy, where we predicted:

In 2010, awareness of location privacy as an issue will enter the mainstream in the U.S. as a critical mass of end users voluntarily adopt technologies that use or share their physical location — and start to wonder who has access to this information. Many more courts will grapple with these questions this year, building upon the important 2009 decisions in the Connolly case in Massachusetts and the Weaver case in New York. EFF is awaiting the decision in U.S. v. Jones in the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, where we asked a court to limit law enforcement use of these devices.

Looks like we hit the nail on the head with this one. As we recounted just last month in the post "Location, Location, Location", location privacy was a huge issue this year both in the courts and in Congress. It's also been a big focus of our work here at EFF, where we brought home two major court victories that strengthened your rights against location tracking by the government, whether through your cell phone or a GPS device attached to your car. (One of those victories was in the US v. Jones case that we mentioned in January, now referred to as US v. Maynard.) We've also been working hard as part of the Digital Due Process coalition to convince Congress to update the law and make absolutely clear that government agents that want to track your location must get a search warrant first. These issues will only get hotter in 2011 as location privacy bills are expected to be introduced in Congress and more court battles are expected to pop up. First up: a showdown in Houston where EFF will be filing a brief in early January opposing the government's appeal of a magistrate judge's pro-privacy cell phone tracking decision.

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