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 revealed that almost all the departments that replied tracked telephones, most without warrants.
The majority of the 200 agencies that responded engaged in some mobile phone tracking. Only a few those claimed they constantly seek warrants and demonstrate possible cause before tracking phones, according to the ACLU report.
Most law enforcement agencies said they track phones to investigate crimes, while others claimed they use tracking only in emergencies like a missing persons case. Only 10 agencies asserted they never use mobile phone tracking.
Some law enforcement agencies provided enough paperwork to paint an in-depth picture of cellphone tracking activities. As an example, Raleigh, North Carolina, tracks hundreds of phones a year primarily based on invoices from phone companies. In Wilson County, North Carolina, police obtain historic tracking data where it's "relevant and material" to an ongoing enquiry, the standard the ACLU notes is lower than probable cause.
Police in Lincoln, Nebraska, get GPS location info on phones without demonstrating likely cause. GPS location info is rather more precise than cell tower location information, according to the ACLU.
Furthermore, the ACLU points out that cellphone tracking has gotten so common that mobile phone firms have manuals that explain to police what information the firms store, how much they charge for access to info and what's required for police to access it.
However , some law enforcement agencies do seek warrants and possible cause before tracking mobile phones. Police in the County of Hawaii, Hawaii, Wichita, Kansas and Lexington, Kentucky, do seek a warrant and likely cause.
The ACLU claims that if "police departments can protect both public safety and privacy by meeting the warrant and likely cause requirements, then surely other agencies can as well."
The civil liberties organisation disagrees that mobile phone firms have made transparency worse by concealing how long they store location data. For example, Sprint keeps tracking records for as many as two years and ATT maintains records from July 2008, according to the U.S. Office of Justice.
In a public letter to wireless carriers, the ACLU implores them to "stop customarily keeping data about your customers' location history that you chance to collect as a side-effect of how mobile technology works," and asks them to disclose how info is being kept and give purchasers more control over how their info is used.
The ACLU is not alone in its concern. Members of both chambers of Congress have introduced legislation that will need law enforcement agencies to obtain a warrant before tracking cellphone info. The act, called the Geolocation Privacy and Surveillance ( GPS ) Act, has bipartisan support but hasn't yet moved out of council.
"Law enforcement, in my mind, has overstepped its bounds and thrown out many of our Fourth Change rights," claimed Utah Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz.
Another effort is being made by Vermont Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy, to update the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act ( ECPA ), which includes "a warrant need for realtime tracking, though not for historic location information."
"I believe the American public deserves and expects a degree of private privacy," announced Chaffetz. "We in The United States don't work on a hypothesis of guilt."
Tags: ACLU, GPS, Warrant-less search