Monday, July 09, 2012

Your tracking device is ringing

Cell carriers have disclosed that they get on average several hundred "requests" a day from Federal, state and local officials for such cell-phone information as the phone's location history, call logs and the contents of text messages.  Most of this monitoring of citizen whereabouts lacks a legitimate search warrant signed by a judge. 

How do the officers manage to bypass the system of checks and balances provided by the standard warrant process?  Labeling the vast majority of the demands "emergencies", of course, to the tune of about 84,000 of them a year to AT&T alone.

"Are there really that many circumstances that justify invoking emergency privileges?"

Of course not. 

Sure it's easier to catch some criminals by coercing phone companies into turning over their phone data.  It would also be much simpler to, say, just break into their house when they're not around and gather the evidence needed for a conviction.  That doesn't make either method lawful.

It's past time for the public to send a clear message to the government (via the voting booth rather than by text) that this kind of data is indeed protected by the Fourth Amendment in exactly the same way as any other information that might pass between a private company and an individual customer.

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