GPS Cells and Jumping the FISA/Telecom Shark.
By: Mark W Adams

I gotta agree with Nick Beaudrot at Cogitamus. This is a dumb battle.

Kevin Drum picks up the story from TChris at the Big Tent of Perpetual Outrage that the ACLU and the EFF folks have filed a FOIA suit to find out if and when and how often the government has used the GPS tracking information in your cell phone to monitor our locations.

(Okay, if that's too many abbreviations for you, then don't worry, you don't need to care.)

It's like this. Every modern cell phone has a little GPS transmitter (or something) and they can triangulate your position between cell towers (I guess). The ACLU and EFF and Kevin Drum want them to get warrants to find out -- where you are.

Drum must be a bit punchy from all the FISA/TeleGiant fighting lately, because frankly, he's better than this.

That cell phone tracking should indeed require a warrant hardly seems disputable. That the Department of Justice refuses to explain its policies hardly seems defensible. Good luck to the ACLU and the EFF.
Uhhm, nope.

It's not only disputable, it's dismissible and defensible.

Now just calm down and think for a minute.

  • They could follow you without a warrant.
  • They could ring your doorbell to see if you answer without a warrant.
  • They can set up a stake out across your street and monitor your coming and going without a warrant.
  • They can check your garbage and find out where you picked up the take out you had for dinner without a warrant.
If you leave your home, you are by definition "out in public." Where's the expectation of privacy when you are in public? If you're not out in public, you must be at home or where-ever you went when you left home and went out in public to get there.

Location is a status, not a thing to be seized or a conversation that can be intercepted. You don't need a warrant to find out someone's status: alive or dead, male or female, felon or clean record, physical description, valid or suspended license -- home or roaming the public streets.

If you do have an expectation of privacy when you are traveling around, in public, then you must be sneaking around -- so ditch the phone with the fancy chip in it that is probably eating your brain anyway.

1 Comment:

Scott said...

Can the government place a tracking device on a person without a warrant?

Doesn't it seem like using cellphones to track movement is like transforming a cellphone into a government tracking device? Which is then kind of a physical invasion of the person, like hiding a bug in a person's clothes or briefcase...

You are probably right, though...so long as a cellphone is only used to gather information about location, that is probably not protected by the 4th Amendment.