Cell phone tracking
Federal government wants access to cell company records
The cell phone is easily the past decade's most quickly changing innovation in day-to-day life. New phones come out every year and the American public can't wait to purchase them.
But the law is behind on the fast-paced nature of cell phone technology. The Federal Appeals court in Philadelphia is currently hearing a case over the location information gathered by cell phones.
The United States government wants unfettered access to this information, while many civil liberties organizations believe that the information should only be turned over in response to a search warrant.
The court must rule that warrants are required. A decision to the contrary would bring to fruition a real-life 1984.
The public honestly has no idea how much information their cell phones collect about them. For instance, mobile phones actually transmit back to their carriers on where the users are at any time, even when the phone is not use.
Basically, whether you like it or not, a cell phone is, in fact, a GPS device.
It shouldn't come as a surprise that law enforcement wants to tap this valuable information source. If given access, police could track the movements of a suspect in real time.
It's a bit scary. The phrase 'Big Brother' really does come to mind. Privacy would essentially be lost.
The main argument in the case is that cell phone companies keep such data on customers' movements for years. This is the information that the government is after.
The Justice Department believes that obtaining cell data is essential 'because [a] suspect and his confederates can use a variety of vehicles and properties to conduct their legal activities, making physical surveillance difficult.'
The burden of proof is called a burden for a reason – it should take effort to prove someone guilty. Remember, the American justice system believes that suspects are innocent until proven guilty.
The Obama administration has argued that warrantless tracking is acceptable because Americans enjoy no 'reasonable expectation of privacy' in where their cell phones are, according to government documents.
The ruling could be the first on what the legal standard is in regard to government requests for information based on location. The court should make clear that the Fourth Amendment requires the government to obtain a search warrant for such records after showing probable cause for connecting the phone's user to criminal activity.
The information about people's movements is extremely private. Hopefully, the courts will rule in favor of privacy on this one.