No Warrants for Cell Phones Either

Via Spencer Ackerman, it seems that:

Federal officials are routinely asking courts to order cellphone companies to furnish real-time tracking data so they can pinpoint the whereabouts of drug traffickers, fugitives and other criminal suspects, according to judges and industry lawyers.

In some cases, judges have granted the requests without requiring the government to demonstrate that there is probable cause to believe that a crime is taking place or that the inquiry will yield evidence of a crime. Privacy advocates fear such a practice may expose average Americans to a new level of government scrutiny of their daily lives.

Interestingly, the Justice Department is against this practice. The officials say:

“Law enforcement has absolutely no interest in tracking the locations of law-abiding citizens. None whatsoever,” Boyd said. “What we’re doing is going through the courts to lawfully obtain data that will help us locate criminal targets, sometimes in cases where lives are literally hanging in the balance, such as a child abduction or serial murderer on the loose.”

Of course this is probably mostly true and there are cases where this is definitely appropriate, but do you really expect that there will never be excesses or mistakes? Look at the do-not-fly list and the history of the FBI or CIA.

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