In 2012, the US Supreme Court ruled that law enforcement required a warrant to gain access to cellular phone records, use GPS to track a suspect, have probable cause to probe a suspect’s privacy through corporate intelligence gathered on customers.
In United States v. Jones Americans have protection under the US Constitution against GPS surveillance by local law enforcement and federal agencies under the 4th Amendment. Because of the information that can be obtained from GPS technology and cellular phone devices, a search warrant was an absolute requirement.
The ACLU discovered that law enforcement was searching private data obtained through cellular phone transmissions without obtaining a warrant. This decision has caused frenzy within federal courts, according to Jason Weinstein, a deputy assistant attorney general in the Justice Department’s criminal division. Weinstein spoke at the Congressional Internet Caucus Advisory Committee and the State of the Mobile Net Conference on Capitol Hill.
The interception of cellular phone tower transmissions signals are used to track individuals. Prosecutors can precisely survey suspects with this technology.
Weinstein stated the current requirements for warrants in the initial stages of an investigation “cripple” law enforcement’s ability to perform their function effectively.
'There really is no fairness and no justice when the law applies differently to different people depending on which courthouse you’re sitting in,' he said at the 'State of the Mobile Net' conference sponsored by the Congressional Internet Caucus Advisory Committee. 'For that reason alone, we think Congress should clarify the legal standard.'Weinstein believes that data collection from cellular phone providers is necessary for law enforcement to perform their job effectively. In justification of this intrusion of person privacy, Weinstein said, “there really is no fairness and no justice when the law applies differently to different people depending on which courthouse you’re sitting in.”
Currently, Congress agrees that cellular phone corporations are third parties, and this requires a warrant with probable cause prior to invasive investigation, like surveillance.
While the Obama administration has been trying to give law enforcement right to American citizen’s privacy through legislation, there has not been much success.
The Stored Communication Act give authorities the ability to retrieve cellular phone data and location without proving probable cause as defined by a search warrant.
Congress is concerned that the Executive branch’s pressure to pass a law giving federal agencies and local law enforcement the power to track Americans without purpose or warrant is a gross violation of basic Constitutional rights.
The DOJ has stated officially to the Fifth Circuit Court that they believe a warrant is not necessary prior to surveillance of American citizens through cellular technology.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation has been very vocal about the ease by which law enforcement can conduct surveillance on US citizens through technological devices. The utilization of the Internet through smart phones becomes more integral while location capabilities (such as GPS) serve as a double-edged sword.
Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon and Republican House of Representatives member Jason Chaffetz of Utah proposed the Geolocation Privacy and Surveillance Act last year trying to detail a legal framework, including requiring a warrant for acquiring location information for a person; however the legislation has not advanced.
Representative Ed Markey has formally requested that large wireless corporations provide information on their relationship with law enforcement; including the data shared between those corporations and authorities agencies to assess the reality of how much information law enforcement is privy to.
Nevada and North Carolina, and other states are using cellphone signals back to cell towers information from wireless carriers for non emergency purposes.
California advised police to figure out how to “clone” phone signals to download text messages while the phone is turned off.
Grand Rapids, Michigan claims that GPS was integral for apprehending an attacker, justifying the unconstitutional use of cellphones. “It’s pretty valuable, simply because there are so many people who have cellphones,” said Roxann Ryan, a criminal analyst with Iowa’s state intelligence branch. “We find people,” she said, “and it saves lives.”
Sheriff Department in Ogden, Utah collaborates with wireless corporations to provide private information to their departments. “Some companies ask that when we have time to do so, we obtain court approval for the tracking request.”
Gilbert, Arizona police have acquired their own cellphone tracking equipment so they could track cellphones at their own discretion. They spent $244,000 dollars of taxpayer money to spy on their own citizens.
Most people are unaware that their local police department is not a legitimate law enforcement agency. They are a glorified security guard firm that was hired by the city, town or state to generate revenue for the elected officials. They are not put in place to protect the citizens. They simply arrest, write tickets and do whatever they can to make money for the counties they are in.
To protect our 4th Amendment rights, we must demand from our elected officials that they uphold the requirement of a search warrant to ensure individual privacy.