Gov't Sued Over Cell Phone Tracking
by William Fisher
If you are a U.S. resident who owns a cell phone, you should care about the outcome of a court case that "could well decide whether the government can use your cell phone to track you - even if it hasn't shown probable cause to believe it will turn up evidence of a crime."
That was the warning issued to the public by several major civil liberties organizations as they appeared in federal court in Philadelphia to argue for more privacy protections in the use of cell phones as tracking devices by law enforcement agents.
The case is at the heart of the constitutional crisis now being played out in the U.S. federal court. Civil liberties groups are asking the court to require that the government show probable cause before it can track your whereabouts.
The groups are the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the ACLU of Pennsylvania, and the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT).
Back in 2007, the U.S. government applied for court permission to obtain information about the location of an individual's cell phone, without showing probable cause that tracking the individual would turn up evidence of a crime.
A magistrate judge denied the government's request and a district court upheld that decision in September 2008. The government is appealing the ruling in the U.S. Court of Appeals.
A number of civil liberties groups, on behalf of plaintiffs in the case, filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the district court decision, arguing that district courts must require the government to show probable cause before permitting the government to obtain information about the location of a cell phone.
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