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 almost all the departments that responded tracked mobile phones, most without warrants.
The great majority of the 200 agencies that replied engaged in some mobile phone tracking. Only a few those said they frequently seek warrants and demonstrate possible cause before tracking mobile phones, according to the ACLU report.
Most law enforcement agencies claimed they track telephones to research crimes, while others said they use tracking only in emergencies like a missing folks case. Only ten agencies said they never use mobile phone tracking.
Some law enforcement agencies provided enough paperwork to paint a detailed picture of telephone tracking activities. As an example, Raleigh, North Carolina, tracks hundreds of cellphones per year primarily based on invoices from phone corporations. In Wilson County, North Carolina, police get historic tracking information where it's "relevant and material" to an ongoing enquiry, the standard the ACLU notes is lower than probable cause.
Police in Lincoln, Nebraska, obtain GPS location information on telephones without demonstrating possible cause. GPS location data is far more precise than cell tower location information, according to the ACLU.
Additionally, the ACLU observes that telephone tracking has gotten so common that phone corporations have manuals that explain to police what information 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 mobile phones. Police in the County of Hawaii, Hawaii, Wichita, Kansas and Lexington, Kentucky, do look for a warrant and possible cause.
The ACLU announces that if "police departments can protect both public safety and privacy by meeting the warrant and possible cause needs, then certainly other agencies can as well."
The civil liberties organisation disagrees that phone companies have made transparency worse by hiding how long they store location data. 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. Dept 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 should happen to collect as a byproduct of how mobile technology works," and asks them to make clear how information is being kept and give shoppers more control of how their information is used.
The ACLU isn't 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, 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 Fourth Amendment rights," said 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, although not for historic location information."
"I think the American public deserves and expects a degree of private privacy," asserted Chaffetz. "We in America don't work on a presumption of guilt."
Tags: ACLU, GPS, Warrant-less search