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Posts Tagged ‘2703 (d) Orders’

It’s disturbingly commonplace and pretty workaday stuff for law enforcement.

If you are an owner of one of the country’s 277 million cell phones, it’s possible that your cell-phone company retained records of where your device has been at all times.

Cell phones have tiny GPS devices embedded inside or because each phone call is routed through towers that can be used to pinpoint the phones’ location to within areas as small as a few hundred feet.

And as the government continues it’s relentless intrusion into the private lives of citizens, cell-phone tracking has become commonplace and among the more unsettling forms of government surveillance. The ease at which your location information can be accessed is a question posed by a Newsweek article, which outlines the various methods local law-enforcement agencies and the Justice Department can use to trace Americans’ cell phones–tracking that in some cases can be done in real time. According to the article, courts across the country routinely agree to police requests for cell phone location information.  The legality of such requests is somewhat murky and there is anecdotal evidence of abuse of the system, with requests that are clearly personal.

What if the Justice Department wants to track political protesters or motorcyclists at the Washington CoC Run?  Or how about track all the motorcycle enthusiasts who arrive at the state capital for “Black Thursday” in Olympia to protest unfavorable biker legislation?  Apparently, it may all be allowed.

It would seem the Orwellian day of Big Brother secretly following motorcyclists movements through the cell phone device in our pocket is here.  Currently, the records are obtained under what is known as “2703(d)” orders—a reference to an obscure provision of a federal law known as the Stored Communications Act—in which prosecutors only need to assert that there are “reasonable grounds” to believe the records are “relevant” to an ongoing federal criminal investigation, a much lower standard than that needed for a search warrant.

When the Wireless Communications and Public Safety Enhancement Act of 1999 was passed, I don’t think they thought about law enforcement over reach or customer’ privacy information related to location-based services.  I encourage preservation of the Fourth Amendment and think it’s time that Congress clarify the terms under which location information may be released to law enforcement.

Until then, if you’re someone who does not wish to disclose their movements to the government then you’ll need not use a cellular telephone.

Photo courtesy of Apple.

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