Warrantless Cell Phone Tracking Found Unconstitutional

After much debate over the constitutionality of police and other government agencies’ ability to track a person’s call and location records without a warrant, U.S. District Court Judge Lynn N. Hughes ruled that it was in fact a violation of individuals’ 4th Amendment rights.

The current standard of operations used by government agencies is that any information cell phone providers held, such as the date, time, called number, and location of the phone during a call was open for the government to use as they wished. Agents didn’t need a warrant, because this information didn’t belong to the individual and did not give him or her any rights to privacy.

Once this line of logic was presented in court, however, Judge Hughes ruled that it was a violation of Americans’ Constitutional Rights as this ruling would allow the government to track every single individual without reason:

“The records would show the date, time, called number, and location of the telephone when the call was made,” Judge Hughes wrote in the decision, dated Nov. 11. “These data are constitutionally protected from this intrusion… If you win this case then there is nothing to prevent the police or the government from monitoring 24 hours a day the public movement of every citizen of the United States.”

 

“When the government requests records from cellular services, data disclosing the location of the telephone at the time of particular calls may be acquired only by a warrant issued on probable cause,” Judge Hughes wrote. “The standard under the [existing law] is below that required by the Constitution.”

So there you have it. Your cell phone call and location data is now protected from prying eyes and will only be disclosed to government agencies if there is a warrant and probable cause. Whether or not this decision will affect the current Supreme Court case to determine warantless GPS tracking remains to be seen.

(Via WSJ)  / (Image by afnamvet licensed under Creative Commons)

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