Court Says Warrantless Mobile Phone Tracking Is Unconstitutional

from the well-that-could-make-things-interesting dept

In an amazingly short and to the point ruling (embedded below), a judge in a district court in Southern Texas, Lynn Hughes, ruled that letting the government get mobile phone data without a warrant was unconstitutional:
When the government requests records from cellular services, data disclosing the location of the telephone at the time of particular calls may be acquired only by a warrant issued on probable cause. U.S. Const., amend. 4. The records show the date, time, called number, and location of the telephone when the call was made. These data are constitutionally protected from this intrusion. The standard under the Stored Communications Act, 18 U.S.C. § 2703(d), is below that required by the Constitution.
Of course, there are a number of cases out there that have ruled on similar issues... and come to different conclusions. This is one of those issues that will continue to bounce around until the Supreme Court clarifies. Still, there's something nice about seeing a court ruling of this nature, where the judge doesn't waste any time at all, and basically just says, "Hey, 4th Amendment! Next!"


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    The Devil's Coachman (profile), Nov 21st, 2011 @ 5:11am

    Like law enforcement will pay any attention to this?

    Not too likely, and they are always forgiven for their transgressions anyway.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 21st, 2011 @ 6:16am

    It continues to amaze me that law enforcement agents are unwilling to get warrants. They aren't particularly hard to get, and yet the small extra effort plus slightly higher standard (i.e., probably cause) is too much to ask for, I guess.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
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    The Groove Tiger (profile), Nov 21st, 2011 @ 6:18am

    Freetard judge... pirating your cellphones.

    Also, inb4 tinfoil hat post by blue.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
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    Louis Smith (profile), Nov 21st, 2011 @ 6:18am

    It is a real shame...

    ... when a judge getting it right is major news.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
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    cc (profile), Nov 21st, 2011 @ 6:27am

    "This is one of those issues that will continue to bounce around until the Supreme Court clarifies that warrantless tracking is perfectly legal."

    FTFY.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
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    A Guy (profile), Nov 21st, 2011 @ 6:37am

    "This is one of those issues that will continue to bounce around until the Supreme Court clarifies. "

    Depending on how broadly or narrowly the SCOTUS rules on the warrantless GPS case, maybe it will be decided soon.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Nov 21st, 2011 @ 6:37am

    Re:

    Dear everyone:

    I know it shouldn't be that big a deal, but it's "probable" cause. Probably cause sounds like the beginning of a statement explaining why I shaved a mohawk into my dogs over the weekend:

    "Well, honey, probably cause I was drunk, so how do ya like that?"

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
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    Jay (profile), Nov 21st, 2011 @ 6:44am

    Re:

    What are constitutional rights when we have a number of people trained to get the bad guy at any cost?

    Then we ignore the fact that the bad guy could be the one they see in the mirror.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
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    xenomancer (profile), Nov 21st, 2011 @ 6:46am

    Re: Re:

    I like "probably cause" better. It sounds more realistic probably cause the police probably cause a lot of "probable cause." And it allows me to gratuitously over use probably and probable.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 21st, 2011 @ 7:17am

    This only applies to the lowest levels of law enforcement, if that. The feds will still get the info they want as well as anyone who has a "friend" on the inside.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
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    P3T3R5ON, Nov 21st, 2011 @ 7:18am

    Here is my question, at what point do they use cellular location data in a case? To line up who was where when, during an investigation?

    Cause I could hand my phone to some random kid and give him 50$ with instructions to go hang out at the mall and return the phone in 2hrs after I've commited a crime.

    Then the opposite happens... can I use my own cellular location records to provide an alabi? Cause if they are going to use it as evidence, you should be able to counter and use it against them. Or throw it out because cellphones aren't imbeded in our bodies yet.

    I just think it shouldn't be used in court cases without iron clad proof one way or the other, there are to many variables...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
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    Pixelation, Nov 21st, 2011 @ 7:48am

    In other news

    In other news, a judge goes missing after a bunch of dark vehicles show up at her house.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
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    Prisoner 201, Nov 21st, 2011 @ 7:49am

    Re:

    "This is one of those issues that will continue to bounce around until the Supreme Court clarifies that anything the government wants to do is perfectly legal."

    I see your FTFY and raise you one FTFY.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
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    DCX2, Nov 21st, 2011 @ 8:44am

    Re: Like law enforcement will pay any attention to this?

    I know, right?

    CIA violates a court order by destroying tapes that a judge had requested from them. Instead of "obstruction of justice" or "destroying evidence", the CIA merely committed "transgressions" for which punishment "would serve no beneficial purpose", according to one U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein of New York.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
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    The Devil's Coachman (profile), Nov 21st, 2011 @ 8:58am

    Re: In other news

    Don't be surprised when that happens. Notice I did not say if.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 21st, 2011 @ 9:16am

    Now if only they made it unconstitutional for wireless providers to invade your privacy.

    http://www.xda-developers.com/android/the-rootkit-of-all-evil-ciq/

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
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    unecessaryEvil, Nov 21st, 2011 @ 12:50pm

    Re: Re:

    By implying that you have 'constitutional rights', you're saying that the government gives you rights. Which is simply not true and wrong, you have individual rights -- a big difference. The constitution is suppose to protect those rights. Even still, if the Constitution were to disappear tomorrow, it would not change anything -- you still have a right to life, liberty & property etc..

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 21st, 2011 @ 4:59pm

    Re: Re:

    No no no, the government has to yell "TERRORISM!" really loudly first. It's only perfectly legal after that.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
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    Aleina, Nov 21st, 2011 @ 7:37pm

    Just a single court ruling in a single district. SCOTUS will allow warrantless phone tracking and then it's a done deal.
    http://goo.gl/L89ss

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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