EPIC & CDT Amicus Brief Highlights Dangers of Unchecked Government Collection of E-Scooter Location Data

August 3, 2021

EPIC and the Center for Democracy & Technology have filed an amicus brief supporting Los Angeles residents’ court fight against a city initiative to collect detailed location information on all individual e-scooter trips taken in Los Angeles. The lawsuit is currently on appeal after the trial court dismissed the case because it found no privacy interest in the data. EPIC and CDT’s amicus brief describes how Los Angeles spearheaded a new data collection pipeline called the Mobility Data Specification (or MDS) to standardize the location data that ride share providers collect so that the data can easily be disclosed to governments for analysis—and, potentially, surveillance. EPIC and CDT wrote that MDS has the “power to turn a so-called ‘smart city’ into a surveillance state that is inimical to the Fourth Amendment.” The amicus brief describes how MDS was developed to track any shared mobility vehicle, and that Los Angeles already had plans to expand the program to rideshare data from Uber and Lyft. EPIC and CDT also argued that the city’s policy goals could be achieved without collecting individual trip data, and described how aggregation, differential privacy, and sampling are widely used to analyze mobility data and protect privacy more than bulk disclosure of individualized trip data. EPIC routinely files amicus briefs in cases applying the Fourth Amendment to novel technologies.

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