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Feds Push For Warrantless Cell Phone Tracking 400

An anonymous reader writes "An article at CNET is reporting on the Obama administration's push for warrantless tracking of the location of cell phones (Verizon Wireless stores location data for one year, for instance). The Justice Department says no warrant is necessary: 'Because wireless carriers regularly generate and retain the records at issue, and because these records provide only a very general indication of a user's whereabouts at certain times in the past, the requested cell-site records do not implicate a Fourth Amendment privacy interest.'"
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Feds Push For Warrantless Cell Phone Tracking

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  • Yeah, that's ok.... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bsDaemon ( 87307 ) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @02:40PM (#31102466)
    I guess I didn't really need a cell phone anyway.
  • Yeah? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MikeRT ( 947531 ) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @02:53PM (#31102756)

    And if you read the 10th amendment at face value, nowhere is there authorization for quite literally the majority of the federal government. The very existence and authority of most federal agencies relies on the **spirit** of the Constitution's enumerated powers, not the actual hard letter.

    Therefore, they should be required to abide by the **spirit** of the 4th amendment.

  • by Kenja ( 541830 ) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @02:54PM (#31102774)
    If someone's general location is not protected by the 4th amendment, lets see a web site that shows the "general location" of all federal employees. Seems only fair.
  • More to the point, (Score:2, Interesting)

    by tombeard ( 126886 ) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @03:01PM (#31102906)

    just WHY are they retaining this information in the first place?

  • Solution (Score:2, Interesting)

    by davidwr ( 791652 ) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @03:02PM (#31102922) Homepage Journal

    1) if the feds require the data retention, then a warrant is necessary to access the customer's information.
    2a) if the feds do not require data retention, then a warrant is required to access the carrier's information.
    2b) if the feds do not require data retention and there is not a reasonable business reason to retain the information, find a carrier that doesn't retain the information beyond what is needed for routine business use.

    It's reasonable for businesses to keep statistical, summary information that cannot be traced back to a customer pretty much indefinitely, well, for years anyways. It's useful for planning and the like.

    It's reasonable for businesses to keep billing data until the billing is finalized. This will normally be 60-90 days after the bill is paid unless they are subject to having the billing opened up at a later date and need the records to protect their interests.

    Location data needs to be kept only for a few days until it is stripped of personal information UNLESS it is needed for billing, for example, off-network roaming, reconciling a bill with a 3rd party carrier, etc.

  • by Ngarrang ( 1023425 ) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @03:04PM (#31102954) Journal

    The government logic being used here reminds of the incredible leaps of logic my 4-yr makes to defend himself from punishment.

    Is very simple, my location at any given moment of any given day is none of the government's business. You want to know, get a warrant. None of this loop-hole business. Makes me happy to not own a cell phone, since I am absolutely certain they are ALREADY tracking innocent citizens in this manner on a regular basis.

  • by Amouth ( 879122 ) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @03:09PM (#31103046)
    I know it's bad form to reply to your self but wanted to note this.. A warrant gives the police special access to a location or information, something not publicly available. If it goes through that they don't need a warrant then could we not use this as a stepping stone to justify any member of the public requesting the same information from the telecom's? not just for our selves but for any one.. it's just a different way of looking at it - and one that should commonly be viewed
  • by Beardo the Bearded ( 321478 ) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @03:10PM (#31103078)

    That's what I thought.

    Now, I'm Canadian, so I'm not entirely versed in US Law (having learned most of it from Law and Order) but my understanding was:

    The US Constitution is a list of things the Government is allowed to do. If it's not on the list, it's not okay.

  • by spottedkangaroo ( 451692 ) * on Thursday February 11, 2010 @03:14PM (#31103144) Homepage

    This is true. We need an amendment that says -- and I think the more plain English the better -- something along the lines of: communication on the internet is protected in the same way any other communication is protected. It is not a new frontier, it is just another communications tool. For each new communications tool, all previous rights and privileges need necessarily still apply.

    Well, something like that. It should be really broad and obvious. When in doubt, you have the right to say it. When in doubt, the government can't get it without a fucking warrant. Maybe it should just say that (sans fuck).

  • by Shivetya ( 243324 ) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @03:14PM (#31103146) Homepage Journal

    you can bet they are violating the intent. As the government has expanded so has the explanation for everything they do. The write long winded justifications all so that by the time you get done reading it you forget what it was about. It almost as if they hope that people opposed will just throw up their hands and give up.

    Remember, those who clutch to their Constitution are now the radicals.

  • by MikeURL ( 890801 ) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @03:14PM (#31103158) Journal
    They must be talking about the location based on cell phone tower data. The GPS on my phone can locate me to within a couple of meters and using google I can create a freaky accurate maptrail of my location over a period of weeks.

    Having said that, even just the cell tower method can locate me, often, to within 500 meters. To argue that this is too general to know my whereabouts at all times is absurd. I think the only way you could claim that location data is not a 4th Amendment violation is if it only tracked you at the state level. And even then it may be a violation. To argue that 500 meters is not enough resolution to infringein my right to unreasonable search is pretty crazy.
  • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @03:18PM (#31103218) Homepage

    No normal government will ever tie their own hands. Right after a revolution - be it a war of independence or civil war - is the only time when people wronged by the government will sit in government and have the power to do anything about it. The rest of the time, claw into what you have and don't let go - it's not coming back.

  • Re:Really? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Requiem18th ( 742389 ) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @03:31PM (#31103412)

    No kidding, the guy should be burned for weeks for aggravated treason.

    This is for giving us hope, this is for taking it away...

  • by WillAffleckUW ( 858324 ) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @03:33PM (#31103440) Homepage Journal

    Unlike some other states, we have strong protections for privacy in our state, and you can't even install a GPS tracking device on a car here without a warrant, or enable that On*Star tracking feature without written permission from the vehicle owner.

    Thus, anyone tracking cell phones in our state - except in federal waterways or on a federal base or in a federal park, would still need a warrant.


    Including the feds.

  • by Jeng ( 926980 ) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @03:36PM (#31103500)

    My take on it in a more contemporary way is that we are allowed to have guns so that we can assassinate political leaders. Now obviously if one assassinates a political leader you would be charged with murder or treason or just plain dead.

    Why is that my take on it? Well, we aren't exactly allowed to have any weapons that would be effective at fighting the US military so its not like we can exactly revolt. Since the second amendment was put specifically for revolt then assassination would be the modern approach.

    This take on it though supports the US restricting military grade weapons, whether that be assault rifles or artillery. All one needs is a good hunting rifle and a good scope, I doubt those two things are ever going to be outlawed.

    Not too worried about not going AC on this, its not the first time I have posted this.

  • by flaming error ( 1041742 ) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @03:52PM (#31103762) Journal

    I hearitly agree with what you're saying, except for the "MUCH expanded Bill of Rights". The Constitution was not intended to be a blacklist of things the government can't do; it's a whitelist of things they can do. If it's not in the whitelist, they can't do it.

    So counter-intuitive though it may seem, if any list needs to be expanded it's the whitelist of things they can do, along with a generous helping of pounding it into their heads that if it's not enumerated as one of their powers, and they try it anyway, they will face an empowered and unsympathetic justice system, be they subcontracted goons or Presidents.

  • Re:Really? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Montezumaa ( 1674080 ) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @04:56PM (#31104716)

    You do understand that Bill Clinton was doing the exact same thing that Bush had been and Obama is doing, right? Bill Clinton started a lot of the phone monitoring that Bush increased. The fact is that any president is going to push the envelop on what is possible, as will anyone that is engaged in any activity. It is only when a person is slapped with an order to stop fucking around that they will actually consider it. Probably.

    The fact that the Justice Department is claiming this is not a violation of the Fourth Amendment is a real problem. Yeah, they may continually violate people's right, but it is humorous that the government would be dumb enough to use such a stupid, untrue argument. Thank god for this "Hope" and "Change".

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 11, 2010 @05:34PM (#31105320)

    If the feds get to track citizens, why can't the citizens track the feds? For instance.. how about a geo-location accurate to 1m on every federal employee available on a google maps website available to every US Citizen whenever they feel like checking it? I mean why not.. it's our government right? Don't we have a say in how our money is spent? Next, I'd like to track how they spend our money too!

  • Re:Well, in fairness (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Ozric ( 30691 ) <ozric&tampabay,rr,com> on Thursday February 11, 2010 @05:41PM (#31105444)

    Should you now be subject to have your possessions searched while the claim you're a drug-dealing prostitute for a half hour because you obviously weren't supposed to be on THAT public street?

    I have a question for you.....
      Does the "drug-dealing prostitute" need to be subjected to that type of treatment any more or less then you do?

  • Re:Well, in fairness (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Shotgun ( 30919 ) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @06:17PM (#31106028)

    No. Not even with some sort of evidence indicating that the person was both dealing drugs and prostituting. In the case that there was evidence, she should have been arrested and arraigned. Harrassing ANYONE on the street serves no purpose.

    My wife is a personal trainer, and had a cop as a client. He said they were just seeing if they could make her cry. According to him, it is a game they play.

  • Re:hope and change (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Jackie_Chan_Fan ( 730745 ) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @06:30PM (#31106218)

    Not really.

    It would seem that both the republicans and democrats are hell bent on destroying America...

    But perhaps its because we the people are hell bent on destroying America. Perhaps we just dont really get what America is... We've grown into this "NEW America"... where we think selfishly rather than thoughtfully with respect to our own freedoms and others.

    I think both political parties are full of shit and need to be burned off the planet, but I fear that entire country itself is just as careless with the original ideals of America.

    We're fucking doomed.

  • Re:Well, in fairness (Score:4, Interesting)

    by AHuxley ( 892839 ) on Thursday February 11, 2010 @07:29PM (#31107086) Journal
    Same with Britain's DNA database, cops just wanted people on it, so they did what was needed to get people on it.
    One huge fishing expedition.
    "Police making arrests 'just to gather DNA samples'" []
    "NYPD tracking cell phone owners, but foes aren't sure practice is legal" []
    The NYPD seems to take an interest in your cell phone battery, and gets to note International Mobile Equipment Identity number.
    Now the feds want to track you 'in the past'.
    Adamo Bove, head of security at Telecom Italia showed what can be done with this tech via mapping out the CIA rendition in Italy in court. He later 'fell' to his death.
    This tech works and now its been turned onto you with very limited court oversight.
    Dump your phone after the first call, meet in public, in a pool/ocean.
    If its mobile communications your gov was all over it from inception - its just getting more legal to use it.

Space is to place as eternity is to time. -- Joseph Joubert