Appeals Court Upholds Judicial Oversight Of Cell Phone Tracking By Law Enforcement

September 7, 2010 4:59 pm

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Ruling Affirms Privacy Rights Of Innocent Americans, Says ACLU

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PHILADELPHIA – A federal appeals court in Pennsylvania today held that judges can require the government to show probable cause and obtain a warrant before accessing individuals’ historical cell phone location records.

The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Pennsylvania, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case, which was before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, charging that federal law grants judges the discretion to require the government to obtain a warrant based on probable cause before accessing historical cell phone records, and that cell phone users do not give up their expectation of privacy just because third party cell phone companies have access to their location information. The court agreed with those views set forth in the brief.

The following can be attributed to Catherine Crump, staff attorney with the ACLU Speech, Privacy and Technology Project:

“Today’s ruling sends a message that merely carrying a cell phone should not make people more susceptible to government surveillance. Innocent Americans should not be made to feel the government is following them wherever they go – including in their own home. While there’s no question that law enforcement agents should have the tools they need to stop crimes, such tools must be used in a manner that upholds the Constitution and personal privacy.”

The friend-of-the-court brief is available online at:

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