Law enforcement track cellphones without warrants. "Warrant-less search"
Rob Houglum. We the People Monday, April 23, 2012
In Aug 2011 the ACLU issued official records requests to over 380 state and local law enforcement agencies and revealed that nearly all the departments that responded tracked cellphones, most without warrants.
The majority of the 2 hundred agencies that responded engaged in some cellphone tracking. Only a few those claimed they regularly seek warrants and demonstrate possible cause before tracking cellphones, according to the ACLU report.
Most law enforcement agencies stated that they track telephones to investigate crimes, while others said they use tracking only in emergencies like a missing people case. Only 10 agencies stated that they never use cellphone tracking.
Some law enforcement agencies provided enough documentation to paint an in-depth image of telephone tracking activities. For instance, Raleigh, North Carolina, tracks loads of telephones a year primarily based on invoices from telephone firms. In Wilson County, North Carolina, police obtain historic tracking data where it's "relevant and material" to an ongoing enquiry, a standard the ACLU notes is lower than probable cause.
Police in Lincoln, Nebraska, get GPS location data on telephones without demonstrating probable cause. GPS location data is rather more accurate than cell tower location info, according to the ACLU.
Furthermore, the ACLU observes that cellphone tracking is becoming so common that mobile phone companies have manuals that explain to police what info the corporations store, how much they require payment for access to data and what's required for police to access it.
But some law enforcement agencies do seek warrants and possible cause before tracking phones. Police in the County of Hawaii, Hawaii, Wichita, Kansas and Lexington, Kentucky, do look for a warrant and likely cause.
The ACLU claims that if "police departments can protect both public safety and privacy by meeting the warrant and probable cause wants, then surely other agencies can as well."
The civil freedoms organisation disagrees that mobile phone companies have made transparency worse by hiding how long they store location info. For example, Run keeps tracking records for as many as 2 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 customarily retaining info about your customers' location history that you happen to collect as a side-product of how mobile technology works," and asks them to make clear how info is being kept and give purchasers more control over how their information is employed.
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 telephone info. The act, known as the Geolocation Privacy and Surveillance ( GPS ) Act, has bipartisan support but hasn't yet moved out of board.
"Law enforcement, in my mind, has overstepped its bounds and thrown out plenty 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 realtime tracking, though not for historic location information."
"I believe the American public merits and expects a degree of private privacy," said Chaffetz. "We in The United States don't work on a presumption of guilt."
Tags: ACLU, GPS, Warrant-less search