- Karie Portillo
SACRAMENTO – A bill that would enforce limits on state and local government’s ability to compel mobility data from micro-mobility companies was re-introduced last week in the State Legislature.
Assembly Bill (AB) 859, authored by Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin (D – Thousand Oaks) and Assemblymember Buffy Wicks (D – Berkeley), is a response to some local governments’ unlawful collection of individual on-trip location data of e-scooter and e-bike riders in their jurisdictions. On February 23rd, a federal judge dismissed the ACLU’s lawsuit against the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, which alleged privacy violations from their Mobility Data Specification permit requirement, calling the issue “more appropriately addressed as a matter of public policy.”
“We need to protect consumer privacy and make clear that any government entity needs a court order or a person’s permission before collecting their highly sensitive location data,” stated Assemblymember Irwin. “While it may not be clear to this federal judge, we can make abundantly clear with AB 859 that renting a scooter does not waive your constitutional rights and does not mean that the government has the right to track your every movement.”
Innovative mobility services such as e-scooters, e-bikes, and ride-shares, have been deployed throughout California communities. In an effort to manage these devices, local governments are requiring permits for the right to operate the mobility devices on streets and sidewalks. In some cities, a condition of these permits requires the disclosure of a users’ real-time on-trip location information to the local government.
The California Electronic Communications Privacy Act (CalECPA), in codifying 4th Amendment protection case law, prohibits a government entity from compelling the production or access to electronic device information without a search warrant, wiretap order, or subpoena. However, local governments have ignored this statue by requiring businesses to provide individual, on-trip data to their transportation planning agencies, fallaciously and dangerously arguing that CalECPA only applies to police departments.
“AB 859 would give local government agencies data collection authority that they currently do not have. By permitting these entities to acquire de-identified and aggregate micro-mobility device data, this bill will strike an important balance between local planning needs and Californians’ constitutionally and statutorily protected right to privacy,” said Assemblymember Wicks.
AB 859 provides for reasonable mobility data collection of operational data when there is no user and anonymized trip data for when there is a user, acknowledging such data might be beneficial to the public (i.e. bike lane planning), but with strong safeguards for personal privacy including that any shared data must be deidentified and aggregated.
Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin represents California’s 44th Assembly District, which includes the communities of Camarillo, Moorpark, Oak Park, Oxnard, Port Hueneme, Thousand Oaks, and Westlake Village.