Celphone Tracking Under Increasing Judicial Scrutiny in the U.S.

10 Dec ’05

The NYT has an article today on the increasing judicial scrutiny of applications by U.S. law enforcement to monitor the movements of criminal suspects by tracking the signals from their celphones. Gist:

In recent years, law enforcement officials have turned to cellular technology as a tool for easily and secretly monitoring the movements of suspects as they occur. But this kind of surveillance – which investigators have been able to conduct with easily obtained court orders – has now come under tougher legal scrutiny.

In the last four months, three federal judges have denied prosecutors the right to get cellphone tracking information from wireless companies without first showing “probable cause” to believe that a crime has been or is being committed. That is the same standard applied to requests for search warrants.

This is a fascinating piece on the difficulty of determing the correct legal standard to apply to the use of digital data to track location and movement. Oddly, it’s accompanied by a graphic of a golf ball bouncing off of someone’s head.

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