Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., is reintroducing the Kelsey Smith Act this week, a bill that would have wireless carriers ping the mobile devices of subscribers believed to be in danger and send their location information to law enforcement. Sens. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., and Deb Fischer, R-Neb., are also backing the bill, and Rep. Ron Estes, R-Kan., will introduce a companion bill in the House.

“The Kelsey Smith Act is common sense legislation that will help save countless children’s lives by making it easier for law enforcement to find children and loved ones who are abducted,” said Roberts. “I’ve worked with my colleagues and the Smith family for years to pass this legislation, which is already law in 23 states.”

The bill is named after an 18-year-old woman who was abducted in 2007. Due to privacy laws, Verizon Wireless was hesitant about giving law enforcement access to digital phone data that could be used to locate the woman. Privacy advocates, such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, argue that the measure would give law enforcement too much power.

“Since Kansas became the first state in the country to pass this legislation, 22 others have followed our state’s lead. It’s time we have a national Kelsey Smith Act to aid law enforcement and save lives,” said Estes.

The bill was stalled in Congress in 2016 after both chambers couldn’t come to a concession on appropriate privacy safeguards. It seems likely that the bill would face the same scrutiny this time around.

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Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.