New Law: Government Can Legally Track You Using Cell Phone Location

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There the federal bureaucrats go again, taking away our rights.

If your cellphone is turned on, your location can now be tracked without a search warrant. A federal judge recently ruled that location data does not deserve protection under the Fourth Amendment.

Bye bye, privacy.

Gary Brown, a judge in New York, decided in favor of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) who were trying to obtain a warrant for a doctor suspected of issuing thousands of illegal prescriptions. The warrant would have forced the doctor’s phone company to give real-time tracking information from his phone.

Brown issued a 30-page opinion, giving the police substantial power. In his opinion, Brown asserts that by carrying a cell phone, someone is voluntarily giving up their Fourth Amendment right to due process. He wrote: “Given geolocation technologies, an individual has no legitimate expectation of privacy in the prospective of a cellular telephone where that individual has failed to protect his privacy by taking the simple expedient of powering it off. As to control by the user, all of the known tracking technologies may be defeated by merely turning off the phone.”

He then argues that smartphone owners should not expect their inherent right to privacy to be observed, since there are apps available that let users locate people in their area.


City workers make phone calls outside the London Stock Exchange in Paternoster Square in the City of London

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is not happy about Brown’s decision. They think it is a “ridiculous” governmental overreach. Chris Soghoian, a senior policy analyst at the ACLU, wrote: “There is a big difference between location information you knowingly share with a select group of friends (or, in fact, the world) and information collected about you without your knowledge or consent.”

Law enforcement has continually used new technologies to attempt to strip Americans of their fundamental rights. For example, police in Michigan tried to gather information about every cell phone within the proximity of a labor protest.

And the breach of privacy could get worse soon. Congressional leaders are currently deciding on two laws that would let police freely bug private citizens. During an April hearing in Washington, one detective told Senators that geolocation tracking is needed to obtain information when “probable cause has not yet been established”.

Yikes. How much further will politicians go to strip us of our rights?

tateWritten by Kristin Tate.

Follow Kristin on Twitter @KristinBTate.

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