ACLU wants LA to put the brakes on scooter tracking program

The American Civil Liberties Union is suing Los Angeles over a program that tracks dockless electric scooters and bikes in real time, potentially allowing the government — or anyone with access to the data — to trace a rider’s entire trip.

The ACLU and the Electronic Frontier Foundation allege the program violates the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the California Electronic Communications Privacy Act, according to the lawsuit filed Monday, June 8.

“Route data can reveal detailed, sensitive, and private information about riders,” said Hannah Zha, an EFF staff attorney. “This is galling and improper, especially at a time when protests are erupting around the country and privacy protections for those exercising their free speech rights on the streets has taken on new importance.”

Los Angeles requires electric scooter and bike companies to use the tracking software, called Mobility Data Specification, to operate in the city. The data does not include information about the rider, but it tracks when and where a trip begins, the route taken and where it ends. Cross-referencing that data with other publicly available sources would make it trivial to determine who used the scooter, the ACLU’s lawsuit argues.