An Important Development in Los Angeles for the Mobility Data Specification and Data Privacy

February 26, 2021

On Wednesday, February 24, The Honorable Dolly M. Gee of the United States District Court, Central District of California granted an order to dismiss with prejudice the complaint entitled, Justin Sanchez, et al. v. City of Los Angeles, et al

The complaint, which was originally filed in June of 2020, sought to end the use of the Mobility Data Specification (MDS) to regulate private mobility companies and manage the public right-of-way in Los Angeles. Originally developed by the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT), MDS is the open-source data specification stewarded by the Open Mobility Foundation and developed in partnership with stakeholders in both the public and private sectors. It is used by more than 120 cities around the world to plan transportation infrastructure, support and regulate shared mobility services, and advance the goal of a safe, equitable, sustainable transportation system. 

The Court’s order underscores the legal validity of both the Mobility Data Specification (MDS) and the role LADOT – and cities across the United States – play in managing the public right-of-way. The order speaks to two key areas of importance: the anonymized nature of data collected through MDS and the legitimate and substantial role for data in government regulation of shared mobility services operating on public streets and sidewalks. Notably, the order states that “smart, effective regulation of a completely novel industry requires robust data.” In dismissing this federal lawsuit with prejudice, the Court makes clear that there is no legal basis to challenge the use of MDS on privacy grounds. 

We believe the issues of data privacy, transportation equity, and government transparency are serious and should continue to be addressed thoughtfully by public and private sector entities alike. City transportation departments can and do protect individual privacy while using the Mobility Data Specification (MDS) to manage public streets for public good, and the Open Mobility Foundation will continue our work to support and enhance these privacy practices. We welcome the good faith collaboration of advocates, companies, and others who share this goal.

In this spirit, we’re grateful for the work of our Privacy, Security, and Transparency Committee, which advises the Open Mobility Foundation on principles and practices that ensure the secure handling of mobility data. The Committee recently released a Mobility Data State of Practice, which catalogs current principles, policies, methods, and technologies applicable to location data privacy and anonymization. They have also created a comprehensive MDS Privacy Guide for Cities that outlines best practices on topics like planning for privacy, managing risk, and open data.

The Open Mobility Foundation looks forward to continuing to support the community of members and volunteers that make open source projects like the Mobility Data Specification (MDS) possible.

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