Theodore's World: Feds Push for Tracking Cell Phones

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February 12, 2010

Feds Push for Tracking Cell Phones

Feds Push for Tracking Cell Phones

CNET news

Two years ago, when the FBI was stymied by a band of armed robbers known as the "Scarecrow Bandits" that had robbed more than 20 Texas banks, it came up with a novel method of locating the thieves.

FBI agents obtained logs from mobile phone companies corresponding to what their cellular towers had recorded at the time of a dozen different bank robberies in the Dallas area. The voluminous records showed that two phones had made calls around the time of all 12 heists, and that those phones belonged to men named Tony Hewitt and Corey Duffey. A jury eventually convicted the duo of multiple bank robbery and weapons charges.

Even though police are tapping into the locations of mobile phones thousands of times a year, the legal ground rules remain unclear, and federal privacy laws written a generation ago are ambiguous at best. On Friday, the first federal appeals court to consider the topic will hear oral arguments (PDF) in a case that could establish new standards for locating wireless devices.

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.

Those claims have alarmed the ACLU and other civil liberties groups, which have opposed the Justice Department's request and plan to tell the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia that Americans' privacy deserves more protection and judicial oversight than what the administration has proposed.

"This is a critical question for privacy in the 21st century," says Kevin Bankston, an attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation who will be arguing on Friday. "If the courts do side with the government, that means that everywhere we go, in the real world and online, will be an open book to the government unprotected by the Fourth Amendment."

Not long ago, the concept of tracking cell phones would have been the stuff of spy movies. In 1998's "Enemy of the State," Gene Hackman warned that the National Security Agency has "been in bed with the entire telecommunications industry since the '40s--they've infected everything."

"The biggest issue at stake is whether or not courts are going to accept the government's minimal view of what is protected by the Fourth Amendment," says EFF's Bankston. "The government is arguing that based on precedents from the 1970s, any record held by a third party about us, no matter how invasively collected, is not protected by the Fourth Amendment."

Wild Thing's comment.......

This from the bunch that wants our medical records on a national database.

Track ordinary Americans, but not terrorist cells is more like it from this administration we have now. Remember last year Obama was talking about bringing up charges against Bush for tapping TERRORIST he wants to do it to Americans.

I am not a big cell phone user. Nick wants to me have one when I drive so I have it for emergencies, just in case. It does make me feel safer when I leave the house. But I use it so like LOL the cell phone account I have has me on as little as 100 minutes or something like that for the whole month. The lady I talked to about setting it up said I was her first to have such low usage on a cell phone. hahaha That is just me, I am just not big on being on the phone much at all. I asked the lady how many minutes I had for the month and she said..... heh heh..... a total of 27. Then we both laughed.

The biggest way I use it is for my clients at the gym, so they can reach me if they need to cancel or move their appointment.

It is funny though how Obama was soooo against this and now is in favor of it.

....Thank you Mark for sending this to me.

3rd Mar.Div. 1st Battalion 9th Marine Regiment
1/9 Marines aka The Walking Dead
VN 66-67

Posted by Wild Thing at February 12, 2010 02:44 AM


What else can he control. Listening in on private conversations ? I thought, they were against that part of the Patriot Act, things change when they get the power.

Posted by: Mark at February 12, 2010 06:49 PM