Law enforcement track cellphones without warrants. "Warrant-less search"
Rob Houglum. We the People Monday, April 23, 2012
In Aug 2011 the ACLU issued public documentation requests to over 380 state and local law enforcement agencies and found that nearly all the departments that replied tracked cellphones, most without warrants.
The vast majority of the 200 agencies that answered engaged in some cellphone tracking. Only a few those claimed they frequently seek warrants and demonstrate possible cause before tracking cellphones, according to the ACLU report.
Most law enforcement agencies stated that they track phones to analyze crimes, while others claimed they use tracking only in emergencies like a missing people case. Only 10 agencies said they never use telephone tracking.
Some law enforcement agencies provided enough paperwork to paint a detailed picture of phone tracking activities. As an example, Raleigh, North Carolina, tracks masses of cellphones per year primarily based on invoices from telephone corporations. In Wilson County, North Carolina, police obtain historic tracking info where it's "relevant and material" to an ongoing investigation, the standard the ACLU notes is lower than probable cause.
Police in Lincoln, Nebraska, get GPS location information on phones without demonstrating possible cause. GPS location info is rather more definite than cell tower location info, according to the ACLU.
Additionally, the ACLU observes that cellphone tracking has gotten so common that mobile phone corporations have manuals that explain to police what info the firms store, how much they charge for access to info and what's needed for police to access it.
But some law enforcement agencies do seek warrants and likely cause before tracking phones. Police in the County of Hawaii, Hawaii, Wichita, Kansas and Lexington, Kentucky, do look for a warrant and possible cause.
The ACLU says that if "police departments can protect both public safety and privacy by meeting the warrant and possible cause wants, then certainly other agencies can as well."
The civil liberties organization argues that phone firms have made transparency worse by hiding how long they store location data. As an example, Sprint keeps tracking records for as many as 24 months and ATT maintains records from July 2008, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
In a public communication to wireless carriers, the ACLU implores them to "stop typically keeping data about your customers' location history that you should happen to collect as a side-product of how mobile technology works," and asks them to make public how info is being kept and give purchasers more control of how their info is used.
The ACLU is not alone in its concern. Members of both chambers of Congress have introduced legislation that would require law enforcement agencies to obtain a warrant before tracking mobile phone information. The act, known as the Geolocation Privacy and Surveillance ( GPS ) Act, has bipartisan support but has not yet moved out of committee.
"Law enforcement, in my mind, has overstepped its bounds and thrown out many of our 4th Amendment rights," claimed Utah Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz.
Another effort is being manufactured by Vermont Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy, to update the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act ( ECPA ), which includes "a warrant need for real-time tracking, though not for historical location information."
"I believe the American public merits and expects a degree of personal privacy," asserted Chaffetz. "We in America do not work on a presumption of guilt."
Tags: ACLU, GPS, Warrant-less search