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Can police use your cell phone to track you?


As discussed in our previous posts, the Fourth Amendment requires that police obtain a search warrant or have reasonable suspicion of a crime before searching a person or their property.

However, growing concern has arisen over police use of cell phone data to collect information about a person’s location and other personal information without sufficient cause. Just recently, the Los Angeles chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union filed a public record request for the mobile phone tracking usage of local law enforcement. The request includes information from local police involving tracking using cell phones, social media or internet investigations, GPS tracking, automatic license plate reading technology, public video surveillance, and any other technologies utilized by local police.

The concern arises not onlu in criminal cases, but in noncriminal cases where cell phone tracking technology has become routine in everyday investigations. An individual’s whereabouts could be tracked by local law enforcement without the person ever knowing. Information on a person’s location can be collected by using satellite data from GPS chips in smart phones, tracing a cell phone signal to a nearby tower, or by requesting the information directly from a cell phone carrier or provider.

Congress is currently considering a bill requiring police to obtain warrants before collecting information regarding a person’s location via mobile phone.

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