Ninth Circuit Okays Los Angeles Program Tracking E-Scooter Riders’ Location

May 24, 2022

A federal appeals court has ruled that the Los Angeles Department of Transportation may track e-scooter rides throughout the city without a warrant. The case hinged on whether people who ride e-scooters have a reasonable expectation in privacy in the location data generated by the scooters, which is then collected by the e-scooter company and routinely disclosed to LADOT.

The Supreme Court ruled in a 2018 case Carpenter v. United States that people have a reasonable expectation of privacy in their historical cell-phone location data because the data is so sensitive and is not voluntarily provided to phone providers. But the Ninth Circuit ruled that scooter location data does not trigger the same privacy concerns. According to the Court, the plaintiffs knowingly and voluntarily shared their location data with the scooter companies, scooters are less personally trackable over time than cell phones, and people do not need scooters to participate in modern society like they need cell phones.

EPIC and the Center for Democracy and Technology had submitted an amicus brief in the case urging the Court to recognize that some individuals can be easily re-identified from their scooter data, scooters are indispensable for low-income residents not served by public transportation, and the LA program could easily be made more privacy protective while still achieving its goals. EPIC also published a blog post further explaining why scooter location privacy should—and could easily—be protected. EPIC routinely files amicus briefs in location privacy cases.

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