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Freedom of Movement: Protecting the Right to Travel from Location Tracking Interference


Americans often take for granted the ability to travel freely throughout the United States. Nonetheless, the ability to travel freely enables Americans to move throughout the United States without government or private interference, including interferences that cause a chilling effect on the ability. Considered a basic right in the United States, the ability to travel freely is a foundational political liberty that serves numerous important purposes. The ability to travel freely allows Americans to participate in everyday, basic activities, facilitates political freedom, and permits the exercise of associated rights, such as the First Amendment right of peaceful assembly. Yet, as one exercises his ability to travel freely, companies are hiding in the shadows, quietly tracking, collecting, and using individuals’ location information.

Indeed, it is commonplace for people to have no knowledge of which companies receive their location information or how those companies use it. Technological innovations in location tracking and data analytics have made location tracking ubiquitous. The expansive location tracking industry, combined with the lack of comprehensive federal legislation regulating its practices, has led the industry to become the “Wild West” of privacy. Companies use existing technology, such as cell phones and smartphone applications, and emerging technology, such as facial recognition, to create comprehensive data sets on unsuspecting individuals. Companies use the compiled location information to provide services, but also to send targeted advertisements, influence individuals’ behaviors, and interfere with individuals’ ability to travel freely—the latter being a foundational and fundamental right in the United States.

Accordingly, this Note argues Congress, using its Commerce Clause authority, should enact legislation to protect the right to travel freely from interference caused by companies’ location tracking practices. This Note also proposes Congress should draft this comprehensive legislation using the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, specifically its Privacy and Security Rules, as a model framework for regulating companies’ collection, use, and disclosure of individuals’ location information.