Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Civil liberties groups oppose Obama Administration's interpretation of cell phones and 4th Amendment

I can't hide my disappointment on this one. In light of our current global economic meltdown and two losing military occupations it's not surprising that a story like this has slipped through the cracks and gone largely unreported. Nonetheless, its privacy implications are substantial.

The Obama administration is now arguing that the Fourth Amendment prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures does not apply to cell-site information mobile phone carriers retain on their customers. The position is being staked out in a little-noticed surveillance case pending before the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia. The case has wide-ranging implications for Americans, as most citizens have or will carry a mobile phone in their lifespan.

Now, three civil liberties groups - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) - are asking the U.S. appeals court to strike down the government's request to obtain stored mobile-phone location tracking information without showing probable cause.

The Industry Standard reports:

Several courts have ruled against the government obtaining real-time mobile-phone tracking information without a warrant, but this is the first case dealing with stored tracking information, said Jennifer Granick, EFF's civil liberties director.

"The government argues that federal law requires judges to approve their applications for location information from cell phone companies -- even if the police don't have probable cause to obtain this sensitive information," Granick said. "Courts have the right under statute -- and the duty under the Constitution -- to demand that the government obtain a search warrant before seizing this private location data."

Mobile phone providers store data about where customers make and receive calls, based on the cell towers the customers' phones used. Granick called the U.S. government's attempts to collect past mobile-phone tracking information "creepy." "They can go back in the past for as long as the cell phone companies keep records," she said.

Click here to read the rest of the article.

No comments: