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Suffolk County Legislator Pushes To Make Covert GPS Tracking Illegal

HAUPPAUGE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) –  It's as easy as snap and track. For around $300, you can buy a GPS and secretly track someone's whereabouts.

But as CBS 2's Carolyn Gusoff reported, Suffolk County Legislator Kate Browning calls that stalking and was shocked to learn it's legal in New York State. She says it's a form of spying and a dangerous invasion of privacy.

"It's unlawful for the police department to put a GPS tracking on a vehicle, but it's not for a private individual," Browning said.

Browning is introducing a bill that would make covert GPS tracking a crime, outraged that a Suffolk County assemblyman was recently tracked by a political foe.

Even worse, she says, are cases of domestic violence. According to experts, most abuse victims have been spied on via GPS.

"The person comes in and says, 'I feel like I'm being paranoid because my partner or my ex-partner knows things about me that there is no way can they know,' and we say 'aha!'" Director of the Suffolk County Against Domestic Violence, Colleen Merlo, said.

At Vehicle Tracking Solutions in Commack, where GPS tracking is installed in fleets of cars, their policy is to sell only to the car owner.

"We do get calls to track an ex-girlfriend or ex-wife and our question is who owns the asset? Who owns the vehicle?" John Cunningham Jr. said, president of Vehicle Tracking Solutions.

But Cunningham does say business owners should keep the right to hide GPS devices in cars they own.

"Any business owner should have the ability to know where their equipment is at all times," he said.

Children's advocates also say don't take away parents' rights to track their children for safety.

"It's a very important tool and we don't want to take that away," Laura Ahearn said, director of Parents For Megan's Law.

Browning says she hopes Suffolk County will "do the right thing" when her bill comes up for debate next month, which also nudges the state to make secret GPS tracking illegal.

Similar bills were recently introduced in the New Jersey and New York State Assembly.

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