US Government appeals ruling banning cell tracking without a warrant

In a case heard by a federal appeals court in Philadelphia on Friday, the U.S. government argued for the right to access cell phone records of suspected criminals without a warrant according to Reuters. Lower court rulings already denied the request; hence, the appeal.

The information obtained in phone records could include dates of calls, location of towers, and duration of conversations. Although the Justice Department claims actual conversations won't be monitored, civil rights attorneys argued this would be an invasion of privacy.

During the court proceedings, attorneys for the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Center for Democracy and Technology argued officials should be required to obtain a warrant showing probable cause. The attorneys went on to say knowing the location of a cell tower provided in the records can narrow down a person's location to one tenth of a mile, violating the "constitutional right protecting a person from unreasonable seizure" as reported by Reuters.

The government’s request to track cell phones without a warrant was originally heard in 2008 and denied by a magistrate judge. The decision was upheld by a district court, and the government is now appealing the ruling in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. According to a 2008 brief, the government claims "cell tower information is useful to law enforcement because of limited information it provides about the location of a cell phone when a call is made."

A three judge panel heard oral arguments on Friday. One judge in particular questioned the government's right to track individuals. A decision is expected in the next few months.

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36 Comments

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Dr. Albert Spamstein said,
Oh look, you US democrats have elected another Billy Bush into office... how utterly ironic.

Sadly, I agree :(. Democrats and Republicans fight over "core" polarizing issues during campaigns (Abortion, gay rights, healthcare), which is what American's fight over. But ultimately, they are but two arms to the same body.

Dr. Albert Spamstein said,
Oh look, you US democrats have elected another Billy Bush into office... how utterly ironic.

Ironic, yes, on the surface. but you should know that there is no difference between the 2 parties in the end. they bicker about stuff for a while but always come to the same conclusion at the end. Bush wasnt elected (both were rigged) by the people and Obama is just another puppet (elected by the people, sadly.)

Rohdehkill, you read the article wrong.

"The information obtained in phone records could include dates of calls, location of towers, and duration of conversations."

So they would know who, when and down to a 1/10th of a mile of where without ever being there, completely after the fact, and without spending that amount of time doing it. Bascially spend 5 minutes to know everything you did for the past week on your cellphone, who you were talking to, and where you were when you were talking to them.

I myself am not quite worried about big brother, but the moment some psycho freak figures out a way into the system its all down hill stalking, serial rapists, etc from there. Personally I wouldn't give two ****s if some government agent wanted to listen into every phone call I made making sure "I wasn't doing illegal acts", his waste of time, until you get some pedophile using the system to figure out when my kid is most vulnerable.

Any technology we've made, we've been able to break.

I remember an interview with a forensics tech and talking about how cell phone tower / proximity was supportive evidence due to the non-exact nature of tracking, but was disturbed at the growing use as the main "primary" evidence to try and convict people.

If all they can really obtain is your general location and how long you were on the phone (without obtaining who you talked to and how long) why is this such a problem? I could easily tail you for a week, know your EXACT location, view what you're doing, and know how long you were on the phone - and it's perfectly legal, without a warrant.

You big brother paranoid freaks make me laugh.

warwagon said,
double standard. If I monitored someones phone call i'd get arrested.
If I shoot someone I don't go to jail!

I wonder why?

rippleman said,
paranoid freaks most of you.... who cares?
Indeed, most of us dont give a ****.

Does not effect us at all. We have nothing to hide so we really do NOT care who is listening to what.

Edited by war, Feb 15 2010, 11:08am :

What is a warrant ? A piece of paper with signature of a person with proper authority. When we can expect to go to the hospital in the middle of the night for emergency and get treated by a doctor is it so hard to get signature ? Have a judge be on call at all times and get a signature when you need it. How many judges do you need to get a signature ? When you can have doctors on call why not a judge ? The reason "It takes time" is a lame excuse. All this will lead to if granted would be abuse of power.

sweetsam said,
Have a judge be on call at all times and get a signature when you need it. How many judges do you need to get a signature ? When you can have doctors on call why not a judge ? The reason "It takes time" is a lame excuse. All this will lead to if granted would be abuse of power.

either that, or we have Judge Dredd for real

stfu. said,
Typo in title btw.

Apologies for being a spelling Nazi.

In future, use the "Report a problem" link, it's just under the article.

Edited by Kirkburn, Feb 13 2010, 11:27pm :

Kirkburn said,
In future, use the "Report a problem" link, it's just under the article.

On occasion I have used Report a problem to point out factual errors, and nothing is ever done about it, or even responded to. I'm not talking about "opinion" but actual data being mis understood.

What bothers me is if they want to getthe phone records for a *suspected* criminal, then they shouldn't have any problems getting a warrent.

This will no doubt be abused by the authorities.

Due process is there for a reason. If it takes too long to get a warrant then make it faster. But being able to track without a warrant just opens the whole thing up to abuse because there's nobody checking to see if the need to track is legitimate.

I don't know if this is good or bad. Getting a warrant takes time, and sometimes you just need to find someone...but at the same time who wants to be watched? Seems like they need to be able to do this, with proper approval from high enough up, and then be held liable if they were found to have done so frivolously and without just cause. Then again, I guess anyone smart enough to be doing something illegal isn't going to be using a phone attached to their name.

thornz0 said,
I don't know if this is good or bad. Getting a warrant takes time, and sometimes you just need to find someone...but at the same time who wants to be watched? Seems like they need to be able to do this, with proper approval from high enough up, and then be held liable if they were found to have done so frivolously and without just cause. Then again, I guess anyone smart enough to be doing something illegal isn't going to be using a phone attached to their name.

Our system was designed for innocent till proven guilty, not guilty until proven innocent.


From a CNET article earlier this week... this statement is...worrisome:

"In that case, the Obama administration has argued that warrantless tracking is permitted because Americans enjoy no "reasonable expectation of privacy" in their--or at least their cell phones'--whereabouts. U.S. Department of Justice lawyers say that "a customer's Fourth Amendment rights are not violated when the phone company reveals to the government its own records" that show where a mobile device placed and received calls."

Source: http://news.cnet.com/8301-13578_3-10451518-38.html

eblkheart said,

From a CNET article earlier this week... this statement is...worrisome:

"In that case, the Obama administration has argued that warrantless tracking is permitted because Americans enjoy no "reasonable expectation of privacy" in their--or at least their cell phones'--whereabouts. U.S. Department of Justice lawyers say that "a customer's Fourth Amendment rights are not violated when the phone company reveals to the government its own records" that show where a mobile device placed and received calls."

Source: http://news.cnet.com/8301-13578_3-10451518-38.html

wow..

eblkheart said,

From a CNET article earlier this week... this statement is...worrisome:

"In that case, the Obama administration...

It was a misquote, and here is why. We discussed this case earlier this year in my Cyberlaw class. The case years ago came out with a judgement that said in the *judge's words* no person should have a "reasonable expectation of privacy". Why did he say that? This was back when CELL PHONE CALLS WERE UNENCRYPTED and with the right listening equipement (radio like), you could tune to the channel of a call and listen to it.

That has since changed, and it is good the courts have now denied this loophole. Phones are now designed to allow privacy.

I did comment to CNET that their article was wrong. That was never words of "The Obama Administration", but the US Governments defense based on old, unecrtyped phone systems.

cybertimber2008 said,
It was a misquote, and here is why. We discussed this case earlier this year in my Cyberlaw class. The case years ago came out with a judgement that said in the *judge's words* no person should have a "reasonable expectation of privacy". Why did he say that? This was back when CELL PHONE CALLS WERE UNENCRYPTED and with the right listening equipement (radio like), you could tune to the channel of a call and listen to it.

That has since changed, and it is good the courts have now denied this loophole. Phones are now designed to allow privacy.

I did comment to CNET that their article was wrong. That was never words of "The Obama Administration", but the US Governments defense based on old, unecrtyped phone systems.

I remembering hearing about this some years back as well, it really makes you not trust ANY news organisation these days.

cybertimber2008 said,

That has since changed, and it is good the courts have now denied this loophole. Phones are now designed to allow privacy.
I misread... I realize now they ALLOWED them to get the location data. Freaking turds. This isn't right.