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 records requests to over 380 state and local law enforcement agencies and revealed that almost all of the departments that answered tracked cellphones, most without warrants.
The vast majority of the 200 agencies that answered engaged in some cellphone tracking. Only a few those stated that they regularly seek warrants and demonstrate probable cause before tracking cellphones, according to the ACLU report.
Most law enforcement agencies said they track phones to research crimes, while others said they use tracking only in emergencies like a missing people case. Only ten agencies stated that they never use mobile phone tracking.
Some law enforcement agencies provided enough documentation to paint a meticulous image of telephone tracking activities. For example, Raleigh, North Carolina, tracks masses of cellphones per year primarily based on invoices from phone companies. In Wilson County, North Carolina, police get historical tracking data where it's "relevant and material" to a continual enquiry, the standard the ACLU notes is lower than likely cause.
Police in Lincoln, Nebraska, obtain GPS location information on phones without demonstrating possible cause. GPS location information is even more precise than cell tower location information, according to the ACLU.
Furthermore, the ACLU points out that telephone tracking is becoming so common that mobile phone firms have manuals that explain to police what info the corporations store, how much they bill for access to data 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 search for a warrant and probable cause.
The ACLU says that if "police departments can protect both public safety and privacy by meeting the warrant and possible cause requirements, then surely other agencies can as well."
The civil freedoms organization disagrees that cellphone firms have made transparency worse by hiding how long they store location information. As an example, Run keeps tracking records for as many as two years and ATT maintains records from July 2008, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
In a public letter to wireless carriers, the ACLU implores them to "stop typically 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 make public how information is being kept and give shoppers 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 will require 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 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 made by Vermont Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy, to update the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act ( ECPA ), which includes "a warrant requirement for real time tracking, though not for historic location information."
"I think the American public merits and expects a degree of private privacy," announced Chaffetz. "We in The USA don't work on a presumption of guilt."
Tags: ACLU, GPS, Warrant-less search