Many US police use cell phones to track: study

Apr 02, 2012
Many US police departments use cell phone tracking, often without court orders, to find suspects and investigate criminal cases, according to a study released Monday.

Many US police departments use cell phone tracking, often without court orders, to find suspects and investigate criminal cases, according to a study released Monday.

The survey released by the found that "the overwhelming majority of law enforcement agencies that responded engage in at least some cell phone tracking," the organization said.

"Most law enforcement agencies that responded engage in cell phone tracking for investigative purposes. Even those that have not tracked cell phones in the course of a have tracked cell phones in emergencies, for example to locate a missing person."

The use of phone tracking, using GPS or other technology to locate people through their cell phones, is a murky legal area.

The has held that the use of GPS devices placed by police on a suspect's car constitutes an "unreasonable search" under the constitution. But the question of cell phone tracking is still making its way through the courts.

Several have introduced bills calling for "location privacy" to be respected by police, except in cases of emergency.

The ACLU said its survey of more than 200 law enforcement agencies showed "disturbing" results, with few seeking warrants and "unclear or inconsistent legal standards" depending on the jurisdiction.

"What we have learned is disturbing. The government should have to get a warrant before tracking cell phones. That is what is necessary to protect Americans' privacy, and it is also what is required under the constitution," said Catherine Crump, an ACLU attorney.

"The fact that some do get warrants shows that a probable cause requirement is a completely reasonable and workable policy, allowing police to protect both public safety and privacy."

The ACLU said it began seeking data last year, filing over 380 requests under states' freedom of information laws.

The responses varied widely, and some agencies did not respond at all.

The civil liberties group said the tracking can be lucrative for mobile operators, and that many charge fees to law enforcement to provide tracking data.

Explore further: Cruising high seas, engineers detect fake GPS signals

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

GPS court ruling leaves US phone tracking unclear

Feb 11, 2012

A US Supreme Court decision requiring a warrant to place a GPS device on the car of a criminal suspect leaves unresolved the bigger issue of police tracking using mobile phones, legal experts say.

ACLU: US Attorney OK'd GPS to track cell phones

Apr 23, 2009

(AP) -- The American Civil Liberties Union says the U.S. Attorney's Office for New Jersey under Christopher Christie, now a GOP gubernatorial candidate, tracked the whereabouts of citizens through their cell phones without ...

Technology is trampling privacy rights, experts say

Jun 30, 2011

They're tools of convenience. Smartphones allow us to make calls, check e-mail, download music, browse the web and take pictures. GPS capabilities tell us where we're going. Facebook lets us reconnect with friends and show ...

Recommended for you

Security CTO to detail Android Fake ID flaw at Black Hat

12 hours ago

Where have you heard this before: A team of security researchers discover a security flaw in Android devices. This is, however, news. This time, experts are talking about a flaw that involves a widespread ...

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

TS1
not rated yet Apr 02, 2012
This could especially be a problem for famous people since those who want to get photos on such would like to know their whereabouts. If the police has means to find that out then it could be just a question of paying someone at the local department.
Vendicar_Decarian
5 / 5 (1) Apr 02, 2012
Under Libertarian direction, the more America goes Conservative, the more it becomes a police state.