Law enforcement’s use of sophisticated cellular tracking techniques to observe suspects before arrest and to build cases against them in criminal cases is building all across the country, and is raising major concern over civil liberties and privacy rights. Existing law is outdated and does not give set guidelines on the use of cellular tracking techniques. Federal wiretap laws are behind the times in passing laws on the use of data to find a person’s location, and guidelines cannot be passed when local laws differ in separate regions of the U.S.
For more than a decade, law enforcement had the technology to match an antenna tower with a cellphone signal so that a cellphone’s location could be tracked to within a radius of 200 yards in urban areas and 20 miles in urban ones. Now, cellular technology is sophisticated enough that its GPS systems can mark a user’s position to within a few dozen yards. Law enforcement can track suspects in real time by having phone companies send signals to a phone that is turned on.
Although it is challenging to discover how easily law enforcement can use cellphone data to track suspects, civil liberty groups have discovered that in some areas, including jurisdictions in New Jersey and Florida, courts have allowed federal prosecutors to track cellphone users in real time without search warrants, an action that many see as a blatant violation of individual privacy. Traditionally, investigators trying to obtain warrants must prove to a judge that they have knowledge of a crime of probable cause. At this point in time however, cell-tracking records have been obtained through lower standards such as subpoenas or court orders based on information relevant to an investigation.
An essential court decision to the direction of debate on this issue will come later this summer, when a federal appeals court in Pennsylvania rules on whether search warrants are needed for the most basic cellphone tracking data, which are the electronic footprints users leave in company records. In March, Google ruled on the side of civil liberties when they announced they would require search warrants before people could observe the GPS data of those who use their mapping application on their phones. Phone and Internet companies are looking to Congress to officially clarify the laws on cellular tracking techniques so they do not violate any legal responsibilities. While civil libertarians argue that the legal gray area of cellphone surveillance is not being discussed or regulated enough, federal and local law enforcement officials argue that citizens have no reason to fear cellphone tracking, as long as they obey the law.
“Law enforcement has a responsibility to keep pace with the latest advances in technology in order to improve its efficiency in fighting crime,’ said Richard A .Brown, the Queens district attorney.
According to data obtained by the civil liberties union, federal prosecutors in New Jersey have obtained cellphone tracking information without warrants in 98 investigations since September 12th, 2001, which has resulted in 83 prosecutions. These libertarians believe phones GPS-based services are allowing the governments to create simple records of citizens movements, and that average Americans have no idea what the government is doing or would be supportive of their unapproved tracking. In the end, they want “Big Brother” to be kept out of people’s pockets.
At Brickhouse Security, we offer a variety of useful tools for law enforcement to track suspects and collect evidence. These include GPS Tracking Systems, and even cell phone data extraction devices like the cell phone spy which retrieves deleted data and text messages from SIM cards. However, BrickHouse is in the business of security and safety, and not in that of invading your personal life. Our company has and always will respect the law. Keeping that in mind, we believe, that in a constantly connected world, the use of GPS and cellular tracking techniques by law enforcement is just another way to create and maintain a peaceful society.
(Via the New York Times)