|You might favor this bill if:
► You believe that diplomatic and consular staffs serve in some of the most dangerous areas of the world, and it is necessary to update technology policies to keep them as safe as possible. This includes shielding them from the threat posed by location-tracking consumer devices that can reveal their physical locations and movements.
|You might oppose this bill if:
► You believe this is a major invasion of diplomatic and consular staff autonomy and privacy. Governing their private cellular and internet use is dangerous territory that could lead to overreach into government employees’ personal lives.
The Protecting Diplomats from Surveillance Through Consumer Devices Act would require the State Department to establish a policy on the use of location-tracking consumer devices at U.S diplomatic and consular facilities. This policy would apply to federal employees, contractors, and locally employed staff.
The state Department would be required to report to Congress and brief staff at these facilities about the new policy.
As part of their security briefings, both existing and new employees at U.S. diplomatic and consular facilities would be required to be informed of this policy.
They’d also be given instructions on the use of location tracking consumer devices both on and off the premises of U.S. diplomatic and consular facilities.
Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX) reintroduced this bill from the 115th Congress to require the State Department to account for location-tracking consumer devices in the broader U.S. embassy and consulate security policies:
Changing technologies force us to continually adapt our security practices that keep our diplomats as safe as possible, including those posed by location-tracking consumer devices that reveal physical locations and movements abroad.
I was glad to reintroduce the Protecting Diplomats Through Consumer Devices Act with my colleague from Texas, Congressman McCaul, which requires the State Department to account for these devices in their broader security policies at embassies and consulates abroad.
We must ensure our brave men and women have the protections they deserve and this legislation does just that,” said Rep. Castro in a statement.
Not later than 60 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of State shall establish a policy on the use of location-tracking consumer devices, including GPS-enabled devices, at United States diplomatic and consular facilities by United States Government employees, contractors, locally employed staff, and members of other agencies deployed to or stationed at such facilities.
In the previous Congress, Rep. Castro introduced this bill when a controversy over fitness app Strava release of anonymized user heat maps in 2017 illuminated the need to ensure that sensitive information about United States bases and other operations isn't compromised through consumer devices' GPS:
They risk their lives to be our nation’s frontline civilians and are faced with having to adapt to changing technologies that often come with security risks including location-tracking consumer devices that reveal movements around the world. That’s why we introduced the Protecting Diplomats from Surveillance Through Consumer Devices Act, which requires the State Department to account for these devices in the security policies of United States embassies and consulates worldwide.
As lawmakers, we have a moral responsibility to take all necessary steps to ensure these brave diplomats and development workers have the protections they deserve.”
In November 2017, Strava, a widely-used app for tracking activity and exercise, released an anonymized heatmap of all its global data.
In January 2018, Australian student Nathan Ruser began digging into the data, and found that the Strava data illuminated “a scattering of little-known locations of war zones where US secret facilities and military bases operations and personnel — presumably because soldiers and staff were unknowingly uploading their fitness tracking data to Strava.”
This led US-led coalition forces to re-evaluate their use of fitness trackers, due to fears that enemy forces could use the data to locate ground troops.
Sponsored by: Castro, Joaquin [D-TX-20].
Cosponsored by: 2 Rep / 2 Dem. (PASSED HOUSE).