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Warrants For Cell Phone Tracking


Police GPS Surveillance Raises Privacy Questions

As the technological revolution has evolved, numerous consumer and professional grade devices made their way onto the market for public consumption. Many of these products such as cell phones, GPS navigation systems and tracking devices have made life easier for consumers, companies and even law enforcement agencies. Unfortunately, they also brought new questions to life that many people did not ever foresee coming. Questions such as the appropriate use of GPS trackers by police to conduct surveillance operations on possible criminal activity. These questions became such hot topics that they even reached the desk of the Supreme Court.

Recently, the Supreme Court reviewed a case where police used GPS tracking hardware to find out where a criminal suspect was going. The GPS tracker confirmed law enforcement suspicions that the suspect was indeed up to unlawful activities. However, the GPS vehicle tracker placed on the car operated by the suspect was not first approved through the process of obtaining a warrant. Basically, police did not request special permission from a judge to place the GPS tracker on the vehicle, but this was basically due to a gray area in the law that never actually required police to do so. There simply was no protocol in place due to legal concerns that would force police to get a warrant before using GPS trackers. After numerous high courts in different states came to different interpretations and conclusions on warrant-less GPS tracking, the Supreme Court decided that law enforcement agents must first acquire a warrant before placing any GPS monitoring or surveillance tracker on the vehicle of a possible suspect.

The Supreme Court GPS tracking case helped change policies among police and government agencies all across the United States, however it did not address another very similar issue and that is police accessing GPS tracking information from mobile phones to track the locations of people. This is because everyday police and government entities access the locational data provided from mobile devices to track individuals, and this form of surveillance is completely legal. In fact, many law enforcement departments do not even need to get a warrant to access this locational data!

Do you believe that government should enforce 4th Amendment privacy rights and make it illegal for police to access locational data from mobile devices unless those law enforcement agencies first establish reasonable cause and get a warrant?

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