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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