In Aug 2011 the ACLU issued public documentation requests to over 380 state and local law enforcement agencies and revealed that almost all the departments that replied tracked telephones, most without warrants.
The great majority of the 200 agencies that replied engaged in some cellphone tracking. Only a handful of those claimed they frequently seek warrants and demonstrate possible cause before tracking phones, according to the ACLU report.
Most law enforcement agencies claimed they track phones to analyze crimes, while others stated that they use tracking only in emergencies like a missing folks case. Only ten agencies asserted they never use mobile phone tracking.
Some law enforcement agencies provided enough documentation to paint a meticulous image of telephone tracking activities. As an example, Raleigh, North Carolina, tracks hundreds of telephones every year primarily based on invoices from phone firms. In Wilson County, North Carolina, police obtain historic tracking info where it's "relevant and material" to a continuing investigation, the standard the ACLU notes is lower than likely cause.
Police in Lincoln, Nebraska, get GPS location data on telephones without demonstrating likely cause. GPS location info is even more accurate than cell tower location information, according to the ACLU.
Furthermore, the ACLU notes that cellphone tracking has become so common that cellphone corporations have manuals that explain to police what information the corporations store, how much they require payment for access to information and what's needed for police to access it.
However , 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 claims that if "police departments can protect both public safety and privacy by meeting the warrant and likely cause requirements, then surely other agencies can as well."
The civil liberties organisation argues that mobile phone companies have made transparency worse by hiding how long they store location data. As an example, Run keeps tracking records for as much as 24 months and ATT maintains records from July 2008, according to the U.S. Office of Justice.
In an open letter to wireless carriers, the ACLU implores them to "stop typically keeping data about your customers' location history that you chance to collect as a side-effect of how mobile technology works," and asks them to disclose how info is being kept and give shoppers more control over how their information is utilized.
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 cellphone information. The act, known as 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 plenty of our 4th Change rights," claimed Utah Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz.
Another effort is being made 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 personal privacy," said Chaffetz. "We in The United States don't work on a presumption of guilt."
Tags: ACLU, GPS, Warrant-less search