Ruling eases government's efforts for cell phone tracking
Says government doesn't need to show probable cause to use cell phone tracking in investigations
Computerworld - A federal court in Massachusetts has ruled that the government doesn't need probable cause to obtain a warrant allowing it to use a person's cell phone to track his past movements.
According to the ruling by the U.S. District Court in Massachusetts, law enforcement officials only need to show the information is "relevant to an ongoing investigation."
The decision stems from an appeal by the government of a magistrate judge's ruling that required members of law enforcement to show probable cause before they could be issued a warrant to gain access to an individual's past movements from cell phone providers. Cell phone companies can track a customer's movements by identifying the cell tower or towers through which his calls were handled. The case is sealed because it is part on an ongoing criminal investigation.
The government wanted to obtain a court order requiring certain carriers to turn over information about a customer's cellular telephone records. While the magistrate judge allowed the government access to the customer's subscriber information, the judge rejected the government's bid to gain access to the customer's historical cell site information (or where the customer was).
The magistrate judge rebuffed the government's argument that it only needed to present "specific and articulable facts" to show the relevance of information to a criminal investigation.
According to court documents, the issue before the district court judge was whether obtaining a warrant for historical cell information should be treated like obtaining a warrant for real-time cell information (where the customer is), which most courts have ruled requires probable cause, in part because under the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, citizens have a reasonable expectation of privacy.
The district court judge decided that under the federal Stored Communications Act, the government could obtain a warrant for historical cell data by showing that data was relevant to an ongoing investigation. In addition, the district court ruled that an individual's past movements were not protected under the Fourth Amendment because the government wasn't looking to track the individual's real-time or future movements.
U.S. Attorney Stephen Heymann said he couldn't discuss the original case that was before the magistrate judge because it is under seal as part of an ongoing criminal investigation.
"This is the first decision that's been about historical tracking," said Jennifer Granick, civil liberties director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a privacy advocacy group in Washington.
"The idea is that the government is using this information, that most people don't know their cell phone transmits, in order to track you, and they are arguing for an extremely low standard under this complicated statutory regime," Granick said. "Most people probably consider this information to be very private -- where you travel and where you've been. So the concern is for something so invasive, the government should have to demonstrate that it's information that they really need."
Read more about Mobile/Wireless in Computerworld's Mobile/Wireless Topic Center.
- 15 Non-Certified IT Skills Growing in Demand
- How 19 Tech Titans Target Healthcare
- Twitter Suffering From Growing Pains (and Facebook Comparisons)
- Agile Comes to Data Integration
- Slideshow: 7 security mistakes people make with their mobile device
- iOS vs. Android: Which is more secure?
- 11 sure signs you've been hacked
- The Critical Role of Support in Your Enterprise Mobility Management Strategy Most business leaders underestimate the importance of tech support when they choose an EMM solution. Here's what to put on your checklist.
- Separating Work and Personal at the Platform Level: How BlackBerry Balance Works BlackBerry® Balance™ separates work from personal on the same mobile device, right at a platform level. Find out how it can work for...
- Protection for Every Enterprise: How BlackBerry Security Works Get an IT-level review of BlackBerry® Security, addressing data leakage protection, certified encryption, containerization and much more.
- Future Focus: What's Coming in Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) Find out why Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) solutions that are truly future-ready must be designed to enable Machine-to-Machine (M2M) capabilities and much more.
- Live Webcast On-demand webinar: "Mobility Mayhem: Balancing BYOD with Enterprise Security" Check out this on-demand webinar to hear Sophos senior security expert John Shier deep dive into how BYOD impacts your enterprise security strategy...
- Live Webcast Unmasking the Differences between Consumer and Enterprise File Sync & Share The consumerization of IT combined with the rapid pace of the modern mobile workplace is forcing enterprise IT teams to evaluate file sync...
- Live Webcast Workforce Mobilization for Improved Productivity A mobility research director from Aberdeen discusses reasons for extending legacy applications to mobile devices, and an integration strategist from Attachmate shows how...
- Getting Ready for BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10.2 Find out how BlackBerry® Enterprise Service 10 helps organizations address the full spectrum of EMM challenges, while balancing the needs of both the...
- Containerization Options: How to Choose the Best DLP Solution for Your Organization This webcast outlines a framework for making the right choice when it comes to containerization approaches, along with the pros and cons of... All Mobile/Wireless White Papers | Webcasts