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Earlier this year, we let you know about a bill introduced in the Iowa Senate to study a vehicle mileage tax requiring a GPS device in your car. Little did we know that just six weeks later, there are more concerns about the government tracking your movement.

The Government Surveillance Experts

To nobody’s surprise, the Chinese government is a surveillance expert. Commerce, transportation, and a person’s identity are closely tied to their smartphone. Now, China tracks citizens and displays a health code on each phone. Before entering a building or form of transportation, the person must show a barcode the government sends to their phone.

What does China have to do with Iowa?

China is halfway around the world, and it’s acknowledged that citizens there have little expectation of privacy or freedom. But what if something similar was happening closer to home? What if it was happening in Kansas?

According to a recent report, Kansas is the first state to publicly acknowledge using a GPS program to track residents’ cell phone locations to try and slow the spread of the coronavirus.

While the publicly available data shows a four-day lag time, the State of Kansas had access to data updated every other day.

Kansas Justice Institute (KJI) sent a letter to Kansas Governor Laura Kelly, expressing serious legal concerns with this action and asked:

  • Why did the state government have access to the GPS tracking data days before the public?
  • Who has access to the information?
  • Is the program temporary?
  • Can residents opt-out?
  • Is it possible to identify users?

KJI concludes by pointing out state and United States constitutions do not tolerate or permit unfettered access to private, confidential information.

What Happened?

The Kansas Governor responded the next day, saying they are merely monitoring social distancing, and no personal information is obtained, utilized, shared, or retained.

That’s good. Many Iowans are clamoring for Governor Reynolds to tighten restrictions on who can freely move and where they can go during this crisis. If movement is restrained, Iowans need to be guaranteed the state government will not tread upon our constitutional rights, nor will they obtain personal, private information.

Remember, this is Iowa, and we take our state motto seriously: Our liberties we prize and our rights we will maintain.