Law enforcement track cellphones without warrants. "Warrant-less search"
Rob Houglum. We the People Monday, April 23, 2012
In August 2011 the ACLU issued official records requests to over 380 state and local law enforcement agencies and discovered that nearly all the departments that answered tracked cellphones, most without warrants.
The majority of the 200 agencies that responded engaged in some cellphone tracking. Only a handful of those stated that they frequently seek warrants and demonstrate possible cause before tracking phones, according to the ACLU report.
Most law enforcement agencies stated that they track phones to analyze crimes, while others claimed they use tracking only in emergencies like a missing folks case. Only ten agencies asserted they never use telephone tracking.
Some law enforcement agencies provided enough paperwork to color an in-depth picture of cellphone tracking activities. As an example, Raleigh, North Carolina, tracks loads of phones a year based primarily on invoices from phone corporations. In Wilson County, North Carolina, police get historical tracking information where it's "relevant and material" to a continual inquiry, the standard the ACLU notes is lower than likely cause.
Police in Lincoln, Nebraska, get GPS location information on phones without demonstrating likely cause. GPS location info is far more definite than cell tower location info, according to the ACLU.
Additionally, the ACLU points out that telephone tracking has become 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 needed 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 announces that if "police departments can protect both public safety and privacy by meeting the warrant and possible cause needs, then surely other agencies can as well."
The civil liberties organisation argues that phone firms have made transparency worse by hiding how long they store location info. 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 an open letter to wireless carriers, the ACLU implores them to "stop typically retaining information about your customers' location history that you happen to collect as a side-effect of how mobile technology works," and asks them to make clear how information is being kept and give purchasers more control over how their information 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 telephone info. The act, called the Geolocation Privacy and Surveillance ( GPS ) Act, has bipartisan support but has not yet moved out of board.
"Law enforcement, in my mind, has overstepped its bounds and thrown out many of our Fourth Change rights," related 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 assume the American public merits and expects a degree of private privacy," announced Chaffetz. "We in The United States don't work on a presumption of guilt."
Tags: ACLU, GPS, Warrant-less search