Debate Club: Should Police Need A Warrant To Get Your Location From Your Mobile Phone Provider?
from the debate-it-up dept
While having access to geolocation data is clearly useful for law enforcement agencies, without the resource limitations that used to discourage the government from tracking you without good reason, the limits on when and how geolocation data can be accessed are unclear. A police department, for example, might not have the resources to follow everyone who lives within a city block for a month, but without clear rules for electronic tracking there is nothing to stop it from requesting every resident's cellphone location history.Also on his side (in this debate) is Rep. Jason Chaffetz, who makes a straightforward 4th Amendment argument, the ACLU's Catherine Crump, who not surprisingly focuses on the privacy arguments and Jennifer Granick from the Center for Internet and Society talking about how the lack of a warrant requirement leaves the system wide open to abuse by law enforcement.
Obviously, we expect people to see us when we step out onto the street each morning, but we don't expect those people to track all of our movements over the course of days, weeks, months, or even years.
Who can possibly argue against all that? Well, there's Joseph Cassilly, who had been the president of the National District Attorney's association. His basic argument is that having easy access to this data makes the job of law enforcement easier:
A recent example of this was in a gang shooting in my jurisdiction wherein an anonymous caller who feared gang retaliation if his identity was known gave the police the identity of two gang members who committed the murder. The police received cell phone information regarding these individuals from prior arrest reports. The cell-site historical information for the time of the killing shows that those two cell phones were hitting off the same tower at the same time in the area of the murder.Nice story, but there is nothing in the Constitution that says we need to make law enforcement's job easier. In fact, it's the opposite. The reason we have a 4th Amendment is to make law enforcement's job more difficult. But that's a choice we make as a free society, recognizing that protecting our civil liberties and freedoms is an important barrier to inevitable law enforcement abuse.
Also in favor of easier spying on people is Rep. Trey Gowdy, who seems to argue that using your GPS data to track you is no different than other "advancements" like "DNA analysis, fingerprint analysis, voice exemplars, blood spatter, or court-approved wiretapping." Gowdy is a bit more middle-ground here, suggesting the importance of privacy, but saying he thinks that location data should require a "lower standard" for a warrant than probable cause. Of course, the problem there is that the whole "probable cause" bit comes to us from The Constitution. So, changing that is difficult.
Either way, you can check out the full arguments and vote for which ones you find most compelling...