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 virtually all the departments that replied tracked cellphones, most without warrants.
The vast majority of the 2 hundred agencies that replied engaged in some cellphone tracking. Only a handful of those stated that they regularly seek warrants and demonstrate possible cause before tracking phones, according to the ACLU report.
Most law enforcement agencies claimed they track phones to analyze crimes, while others stated that they use tracking only in emergencies like a missing folks case. Only 10 agencies stated that they never use cellphone 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 telephones per year primarily based on invoices from phone corporations. In Wilson County, North Carolina, police get historical tracking info where it's "relevant and material" to an ongoing inquiry, a standard the ACLU notes is lower than likely cause.
Police in Lincoln, Nebraska, obtain GPS location data on phones without demonstrating probable cause. GPS location information is even more precise than cell tower location information, according to the ACLU.
Furthermore, the ACLU notes that cellphone tracking has gotten so common that cellphone companies have manuals that explain to police what data the firms store, how much they bill for access to info and what's needed for police to access it.
But some law enforcement agencies do seek warrants and probable cause before tracking cellphones. Police in the County of Hawaii, Hawaii, Wichita, Kansas and Lexington, Kentucky, do seek a warrant and probable cause.
The ACLU announces that if "police departments can protect both public safety and privacy by meeting the warrant and possible cause requirements, then certainly other agencies can as well."
The civil liberties organisation disagrees that cellphone corporations 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 letter to wireless carriers, the ACLU implores them to "stop routinely maintaining 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 clear how info is being kept and give purchasers more control over how their info is employed.
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 telephone information. 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 lots of our Fourth Change 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 assume the American public merits and expects a degree of personal privacy," asserted Chaffetz. "We in The USA don't work on a hypothesis of guilt."
Tags: ACLU, GPS, Warrant-less search