Saturday, February 13, 2010


A recent Newsweek article “Can the FBI Secretly Track Your Cell Phone?” by Michael Isikoff set off a Right to Privacy debate among some friends of mine.

One, an engineer, answered the question this way: Yep, and it could be turned around too. If you had a crime scene and you needed to know who had been there you could simply interrogate the tracking data to see what cell phone had been there during a given time frame. it could be used as a means to find preliminary suspect data. I'm not aware of anyone using it that way, but it could be done easily. I wouldn't be surprised if it was being used in such a manner.

When I responded that I don't have a problem with it and that from a law enforcement point of view it sounds good to me, he replied: I don't have a particular problem with the concept but I think the magistrates have a point that it violates the fourth amendment regarding searches. I would prefer to see it have to meet the same reasonableness and probable cause criteria as any other search warrant.

First of all, THERE IS NOTHING IN OUR CONSTITUTION AND THE BILL OF RIGHTS ABOUT THE RIGHT TO PRIVACY! This concept, which has taken root, started out as an interpretation by liberal judges – I believe back in the 1970s - that all searches are based on the right to privacy. I do not believe that a cell phone tracking device meets the criteria for a search as intended by the 4th amendment, despite the screams of civil libertarians.

Back in the '50s and '60s when I was working the streets, we used to sneak up and put tracking devices underneath the cars of drug dealers and other criminals we wanted to follow. That provided us with a great law enforcement tool because it enabled us to keep track of their destination without them being able to spot us. I do know that the practice withstood all legal challenges for many years. Now, as I’ve been told, you have to get a search warrant before you can place a tracking device on a car.

The tracking device contained in every cell phone, however, is not the same as a device that is secretly place on a car or within a private residence. As another friend put it: Just don’t take your cell phone with you when you go to rob a bank or when you go out to cheat on your wife.


bob walsh said...

There is no real privacy in the modern world. Get used to it and deal with it. And leave your cell phone at home if you want to murder someone.

Rorschach said...

But what happens when a fascist government decides to use the data to track the whereabouts of the politically unclean? When the DHS declares that tea party protesters are in fact domestic terrorists (already done!) and are therefore subject to surveillance in order to identify others that may hold similar beliefs? What happens when it is used to round up political prisoners? The search warrant exists for a reason to prevent such abuses.