Are the Police Tracking You With Your Cell?

The ACLU says yes and they are doing it more than you think.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    The ACLU is asking police agencies how they use smart phones to track people under investigation.

    The San Diego chapter of the ACLU has joined a national effort to ask police agencies to disclose their policies when it comes to use of the information.

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    Kevin Keenan, executive director of the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties, believes the larger problem is the lack of accountability when it comes criminal investigations involving federal law enforcement officers in border communities.

    In a letter to San Diego's police chief William Lansdowne, the ACLU asked the police department for all records pertaining to mobile phone tracking, Internet and social media investigations, GPS tracking devices and automatic license plate readers, public video surveillance cameras and facial recognition technologies, mobile forensic data extraction, and all other technologies used by the SDPD, said the ACLU's Rebecca Rauber.

    "We need to find out how law enforcement is using mobile phone data to track people," Rauber said. "More broadly, we are also concerned that some prosecutors seem to be making it a practice of obtaining court orders to track the location of cell phones on less than a showing of probable cause."

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    The ACLU believes the public has the right to know under what circumstances the government is accessing their personal information, the organization said.

    In a 13-month period, Sprint received more than eight million demands for location information from law enforcement, according to the ACLU.

    "We believe that warrantless cell phone tracking is unconstitutional and violates statutory law," Rauber said.

    Federal law and the Fourth Amendment compel the government to get a warrant based on probable cause for all cell phone tracking.

    "This is a low-level standard; judges sign such warrants every day of the week," Rauber said. "Because of the gravity of the public’s privacy interests, continuing to uphold probable cause as the standard for law enforcement seems reasonable and consistent with American values and our Constitution."