Law enforcement tracks cell phones without warrants, says ACLU

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Most of the 200 state and local law enforcement agencies that responded to freedom of information requests from American Civil Liberties Union chapters disclosed documents showing they engage in cell phone tracking without a warrant, the ACLU said April 2.

ACLU chapters sent more than 380 requests under transparent government laws, although it did not receive responses back from all of them. Of the 200 that submitted documents, 190 showed evidence that they engaged in cell phone tracking of some sort. Only six agencies responded that in order to track cell phones, they must first get a warrant or have probable cause: County of Hawai’i, Hawaii; Honolulu, Hawaii; Wichita, Kan.; Lexington, Ky.; Lincoln, Neb.; and North Las Vegas, Nev.

The documents also show that the scope of information law enforcement agencies request from mobile communications providers varies dramatically. Some ask for information about just one target telephone, while others “seek to track every telephone that called or was called by a specific phone,” the ACLU says in a more detailed analysis (.pdf) of the documents.

Prolonged location tracking, the ACLU says--cell phones necessarily transmit location data to the cellular network--requires a warrant following the Supreme Court’s January 2012 ruling in U.S. v. Jones, which found that the FBI could not attach a Global Positioning System device to a car without a warrant.

For more:
go to the ACLU statement
download the ACLU’s more detailed analysis (.pdf)

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