A parent or older relative has developed Alzheimer’s and is prone to wander off. You want to do everything possible to protect them and take measures to prevent them from getting lost. Would one of those measures allow the federal government to install tracking devices so they can keep dibs on your loved one?
It is not science fiction and it may not be a decision you are even given a say in. The government is quietly and quickly moving towards that exact action.
H.R. 4919 is a recent bill arriving at the House of Representatives. It proposes to reauthorize and expand an expired federal program, the Missing Alzheimer’s Disease Patient Alert Program. On the surface, the bill looks helpful and promising to those afflicted with this disease.
The bill would create a $2 million grant program, administered by the Department of Justice, for the purpose of doling out federal funds to “health care agencies, state and local law enforcement agencies, or public safety agencies and nonprofit organizations to assist such entities in planning, designing, establishing, or operating locally based, proactive programs to prevent wandering and locate missing individuals” who suffer from various forms of mental impairment.
Funds would also be available to “provide education and training” to “school personnel, clinicians, and the public” for the purpose of improving safety and “reducing the incidence of wandering,” as well as to provide “prevention and response training and emergency protocols” for “school administrators, staff, and families.”
The issue is that the bill does not end there. The main purpose of the proposed law focuses on tracking devices, and would require the Department Of Justice (DOJ) to award grants for the purpose of “designing, establishing, and operating locative tracking technology programs” for individuals suffering from developmental disabilities.
Under this program, individuals or caregivers would be able to apply for a tracking device, and local organizations could receive funding to operate tracking networks to monitor them. This does not prevent the government from being one of those individuals or government funded facilities to be considered caregivers.
This gives an unbelievable amount of room for federal government to step in and monitor individuals under the veil of “healthcare.” This is not the type of bill that truly benefits families of patients.
Many options are already available of a variety of affordable devices for families or guardians who may wish to purchase one for a dependent. The devices range from bracelet wearables for children that feature the ability to call their parents if they are lost, to more conventional trackers that can be placed in a bag or pocket. And for those able to carry a phone, virtually every cellphone on the market can be used as a GPS tracker.
If the government truly wishes to help Alzheimer’s patients and their families, they would work on subsidies that would help people afford these or programs that distribute them to private doctors to give to families.
What the bill promises is the potential to make these devices free for consumers. While this may seem enticing it brings with it the baggage of the government having way too much control over an individuals’ rights.
No answers are forthcoming from the government; the bill is unusually vague about exactly what that entitlement program would look like. Details like what devices will be available, who exactly would be eligible to receive them, and what agencies or entities will have access to the highly personal location data they will generate, are nonexistent.
Rather than answer these important questions, the bill delegates the responsibility for defining the scope of the program to the attorney general, who is tasked with “establishing standards and best practices relating to the use of tracking technology.”
The bill is also notably lacking limitations. The bill places few limits on the rulemaking authority of the DOJ in this space. Federal standards must respect the “civil rights and liberties” of people being tracked, including their Fourth Amendment rights. Data collected must be used “solely for the purpose of preventing injury or death.”
However this bill is far too open-ended and ill-defined to guarantee privacy violations and liberties are protected. Vital questions are left entirely to the discretion of federal officials. Should they finance the monitoring and use of tracking devices placed on someone over their objection? The bill neglects to say, it only mandates that DOJ “establish a complaint and investigation process” when such situations arise.
H.R. 4919 also only requires that the DOJ “determine their role.” With that boundless legislative language, federal officials could decide that states have no role to play whatsoever. Despite the complicated puzzles to solve, the bill gives the Justice Department only four months to resolve them.
While the government’s abilities in this bill are virtually limitless, the same does not extend down the ladder. Any individual, nonprofit, local law enforcement organization or school that takes federal funds will have to agree to abide by the micro-managerial “best practices” developed by federal bureaucrats.
This bill has already been rushed through the Senate and sits at the door of the House of Representatives. There is hope to end this blatant violation of privacy where it is. Recent elections have given the House a Republican majority. If the bill is tabled until new representatives take their seats, there is a good chance that it will not pass.
Republicans must block this expansion of government into the lives of private citizens. This is a good example of a helpful bill gone completely wrong. Tracking individuals, if necessary, should be left to family members or capable healthcare professionals. The government should not be given these rights.