Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Police Track Citizens with Phone's GPS

For $50 police can track your whereabouts and in most cases they don't need a warrant but a simple subpoena.

The problem is that by having a cell phone you also carry with you a tracking device that pings your location to the nearest cell tower a few times a minute. Most Americans  have a cell phone.

Imagine if you were running for public office and you knew exactly how many times your opponent went to church, visited the wrong side of the tracks, visited a liquor store, strip club or was at home.

Sure your opponent might not do anything illegal but you would have a pretty clear idea of how he/she spent there time and I am sure that your election team would find that information useful. That is the information the phone companies supply police.

There are some companies online that offer to provide that information to the public as well.  

“Location data for cops is like a kid in a candy store,” said Mark Rasch, former head of the Justice Department’s Computer Crime Unit.  “It’s a wonderful investigative tool which is highly intrusive of personal liberty and our rules on privacy, and rules governing access to this are not only antiquated but confusing and conflicting.  Add to that a profit motive by carriers, and lack of sufficient oversight on law enforcement access to the records, and you have a prescription for, at a minimum, violations of civil liberties.”

In the case of The United States V Jones the Supreme Court ruled that GPS tracking violates civil liberties.

A New York Times story today revealed that telecommunications companies are receiving more far-reaching cell phone information requests from law enforcement than ever.

The companies revealed they have received approximately 1.3 million such requests for customer information just in 2011. The information was provided in response to letters from Reps. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Joe Barton (R-Texas).

Bills that would require a warrant for location records, both named the Geolocation Privacy and Surveillance (GPS) Act, are currently pending in the House and Senate. The ACLU strongly supports the legislation, which was introduced by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah).

“Whether they realize it or not, Americans are carrying tracking devices with them wherever they go. Today’s new information makes it clear that law enforcement has carte blanche to follow the trail they leave behind,” said Christopher Calabrese, ACLU legislative counsel. “The cell phone data of innocent Americans is almost certainly swept up in these requests.

Without clear safeguards and standards for how law enforcement gathers and stores location information, there is a massive privacy gap that leaves all of us vulnerable. It’s time for Congress to get serious about protecting our cell phone data and pass the GPS Act.”

Here is a link that will show what the different phone/internet companies need to provide information to police.  Thank You Katherine Lewis Parker at the ACLU for acquiring this very interesting information.

You can make your voice heard on this issue by sending a letter to the US Senate and House urging them to support the GPS Act sponsored by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) or Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT)  

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