Sanchez v. Los Angeles Department of Transportation (9th Cir. 2022) 39 F.4th 548 (amicus)

Faced with a near-overnight invasion of e-scooters cluttering sidewalks and interfering with street access, the City of Los Angeles adopted a permitting program and required e-scooter companies to disclose real-time location data for every device.  In this case, an e-scooter user claimed that the location disclosure requirement violated the Fourth Amendment and California law.  The complaint alleged that the protocols provided the location of e-scooters with Orwellian precision, to within 1.11 centimeters of their exact location, and that the City could use other available information to identify trips by individuals to sensitive locations.  The district court found that the City’s program was not a search under the Fourth Amendment because plaintiff had no reasonable expectation of privacy over anonymous location data, and dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim.

Supporting the City on appeal, GMSR filed an amicus brief for the Open Mobility Foundation, a non-profit whose members include cities and transportation authorities, mobility operators, and software vendors.  GMSR’s brief provided context and case studies to show how the Mobility Data Specification interface enables public entities to fulfill their duty to regulate the public right-of-way, decide their infrastructure needs, and make other public policy decisions.

The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of the case, holding, among other things, that the City’s program does not violate the Fourth Amendment or the California Constitution.  Central to the Court’s decision was that plaintiff “affirmatively chose to disclose location data to e-scooter operators each time he rented a device.”  Because he knowingly and voluntarily disclosed location data to the e-scooter operators, he had no reasonable expectation of privacy.  The Court also observed that the anonymous, point-to-point location data collected by the Mobile Data Specification is “far afield from the dragnet, continuous monitoring of an identified individual’s movements” that are at issue in cases that the plaintiff relied on.

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