Law enforcement track cellphones without warrants. "Warrant-less search"
Rob Houglum. We the People Monday, April 23, 2012
In August 2011 the ACLU issued public records requests to over 380 state and local law enforcement agencies and found that almost all the departments that responded tracked cellphones, most without warrants.
The great majority of the 2 hundred agencies that replied engaged in some cellphone tracking. Only a handful of those said they frequently seek warrants and demonstrate probable cause before tracking cellphones, according to the ACLU report.
Most law enforcement agencies said they track telephones to investigate crimes, while others stated that they use tracking only in emergencies like a missing persons case. Only ten agencies stated that they never use cellphone tracking.
Some law enforcement agencies provided enough paperwork to color a meticulous image of telephone tracking activities. As an example, Raleigh, North Carolina, tracks loads of cellphones per year primarily based on invoices from telephone companies. In Wilson County, North Carolina, police get historical tracking information where it's "relevant and material" to an ongoing enquiry, a standard the ACLU notes is lower than possible cause.
Police in Lincoln, Nebraska, get GPS location information on phones without demonstrating likely cause. GPS location information is even more accurate than cell tower location info, according to the ACLU.
Additionally, the ACLU points out that cellphone tracking has become so common that cellphone firms have manuals that explain to police what info the companies store, how much they require payment 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 search for a warrant and possible cause.
The ACLU says that if "police departments can protect both public safety and privacy by meeting the warrant and probable cause wants, then certainly other agencies can as well."
The civil freedoms organisation argues that phone firms have made transparency worse by concealing how long they store location info. As an example, Sprint keeps tracking records for as much as two years and ATT maintains records from July 2008, according to the U.S. Dept of Justice.
In a public communication to wireless carriers, the ACLU implores them to "stop typically retaining data about your customers' location history that you chance to collect as a side-product of how mobile technology works," and asks them to disclose how information is being kept and give customers more control of how their info is utilized.
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, 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 4th 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 obligation for real time tracking, though not for historical location information."
"I assume the American public deserves and expects a degree of private privacy," announced Chaffetz. "We in America don't work on a hypothesis of guilt."
Tags: ACLU, GPS, Warrant-less search