I can’t count how many times I have written about this issue in the past, here and on other online forums.
Because this site is mainly about GPS tracking I get a lot of visitors who are highly polarized … for or against the government being able to track citizen’s positions and past movements via cell-phone based GPS or discrete GPS systems that might be in use by the subject of an investigation.
But folks, if you are deeply concerned about privacy and personal freedoms, you better shift the focus of your campaign away from the GPS system and start looking at the original big picture.
We could shut off the GPS in the interest of privacy today and government agencies would still be able to snoop and record tremendous amounts of data on anyone who even turns on their cell phone.
You don’t have to actually use the cell phone, and your cell phone does not need to be equipped with GPS. “Big Brother” still knows and now he has even more authority to snoop and keep snooping … GPS or no GPS.
A federal appeals court said Tuesday the government may obtain cell-site information that mobile phone carriers retain on their customers without a probable-cause warrant under the Fourth Amendment.
The decision by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (.pdf) was not, however, an outright Obama administration victory. Lower courts, the three-judge panel wrote, could demand the government show probable cause — the warrant standard — before requiring carriers to release such data to the feds.
The opinion does leaves the privacy issue in a legal limbo of sorts. The standard by which the government can access such records — which can be used in criminal prosecutions — is left to the whims of district court judges. Historical cell-site location information, which carriers usually retain for about 18 months, identifies the cell tower to which the customer was connected at the beginning of a call and at the end of the call.
Lower courts across the country have issued conflicting rulings on the topic and will continue to do so without appellate guidance or congressional action. The Philadelphia-based court was the first appeals court to address the issue.
The Obama administration argued a judge could force a carrier to produce cell-site data on a showing that the information was “relevant and material” to an investigation.