Lawmakers: GPS tracking of drunk drivers goes too far

State Reps. Peggy Scott and John Lesch are making a bipartisan push for privacy in ignition interlock program. Tim Pugmire|MPR News

Republican and DFL lawmakers plan to introduce legislation next month to stop the Minnesota Department of Public Safety from tracking the locations of motorists who are required to use ignition interlock devices.

The department runs the program that measures the blood-alcohol levels of drunk driving offenders when they get behind the wheel. But the devices also have the capability to collect GPS data.

Rep. Peggy Scott, R-Andover, said at a news conference Monday that tougher standards are needed to protect privacy.

“The purpose of the ignition interlock program is to not allow people to drive after they’ve been drinking, plain and simple,” Scott said. “To now require ignition interlock devises to be equipped with GPS or any other technology that can track the program participants’ whereabouts is overreach and may indeed be unconstitutional.”

Scott, who chairs the House Civil Law and Data Practices Committee, said she plans to hold a hearing on the issue at the start of the 2017 session. She also asked the department to halt its new tracking requirement until the legislature and public can weigh in.

In a statement, DPS spokesman Bruce Gordon said real-time reporting offers instant notification of a user violation.

“While real-time reporting is required, no particular technology is mandated for ignition interlock devices,” Gordon said.  “DPS does not require, use, or store GPS data from these devices. There are five manufacturers certified to provide ignition interlock devices in Minnesota and all five have machines that provide real-time information. These devices are currently being installed in participant vehicles.”

Rep. John Lesch, DFL-St. Paul, said he favors an even broader look at data collection by state government. Lesch said he has similar concerns about the use of drones and facial recognition software.

“We should be examining many, many more areas of government technology, how they’re used, whether they’re being used in a potentially unconstitutional way and whether or not the legislature has been advised of that,” Lesch said.

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