By Jonathan Gallardo
Gillette News Record Via Wyoming News Exchange 

Some residents concerned data tracking plan invades privacy, violates Constitution


March 30, 2023

GILLETTE – The Campbell County Convention and Visitors Bureau's plan to use a geofencing technology to track spending habits at the National High School Finals Rodeo this summer has rubbed some people the wrong way, with one person even calling for a commissioner to resign.

In March, the visitors center told commissioners about its plans to put a virtual fence around Cam-plex and around Campbell County during the NHSFR to get a better idea of the economic impact the event has.

At Tuesday's commission meeting, Bill Fortner with Wyoming Constitutionalists criticized the commissioners for not being informed on the Constitution. He said if they knew the Constitution, they would have known that geofencing is a violation of people's constitutional rights.

"It's not only dishonest and unethical, it's against the law," Fortner said. "It's one of the highest crimes that can be committed."

Geofencing is a service that uses radio frequency identification, Wi-Fi, GPS or cellular data to trigger an action when a mobile device enters or leaves an imaginary boundary based on a geographic area. When people cross these imaginary fence lines, information from their credit cards and cell phones will be picked up.

Fortner called it "Chinese propaganda," and that "there's nothing that says the information made right here in Campbell County is not going to end up in China."

Fortner wondered if the NHSFR and the International Pathfinders Camporee would be happy if they learned about this.

"Let's see how fast they turn that contract back and walk away," he said. "When did you intend to tell them that you would steal their private information and track them like criminals while they visit our county?"

In a letter read aloud by his mother, Jacob Dalby called for Butch Knutson to resign.

"For your in favor support of the tracking program purchased by Campbell County, a communist act, I demand your immediate resignation as commissioner," Jacob wrote.

Knutson said he wasn't in favor of the geofencing technology, and he didn't appreciate the accusation.

"Sometimes, people just come and get a little ahead of themselves. I don't like what I just got accused of," he said.

Commissioner Del Shelstad, who was not present at the lodging tax board meeting where this was brought up, said he was "100% against" data tracking.

Commission Chair Colleen Faber said companies are "gathering that data regardless of what we do."

Jessica Seders, executive director of the Campbell County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said she shares people's concerns on privacy invasion.

"We can't identify particular people," she said, adding that all the data will say is whether a person is local and where they're spending their money. "We don't see their names, age or phone number."

The visitors center is using $31,000 from a state grant to pay Zartico, a Utah-based company, to gather the data.

"We aren't collecting data that's not already being collected," Seders said. "This is just a company that can give us that information."

This story was published on April 5, 2023.


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