Friday, September 12, 2008

Court Says Police Can’t Track You Via Cell Phone

The Justice Department this week lost an appeal that would have allowed the government to use cell phone data to track your location without having probable cause. A judge in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania ruled that such tracking could violate the Fourth Amendment against unreasonable search and seizure (yeah, there’s a reason you learn about these documents in school), and said law enforcement officials need to show probable cause before getting access to such records. Those records show which cell phone towers were pinged by a suspect’s phone, and give a reasonable idea as to where a person is. So that’s a slight comfort for folks worried about government use of their cell phone data, although there’s still plenty of other privacy concerns out there, including police departments using GPS chips planted on suspect’s cars or shopping malls using cell data to track which stores you enter. It’s almost enough to make you forget about invasive advertising online.

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