Police Cell Phone Tracking Increases
It used to be that only federal agents and spy organizations were permitted to monitor cell phones to catch criminals. But more recently, there has been an increase in the use of cell phone tracking by general law enforcement members, like police officers and sheriff’s department members. By tracking someone’s cell phone activity, you could learn almost everything. See who they’re talking to, what they’re saying, where they’re going, what their plans are, and so much more. Now, law enforcement is utilizing this dangerous tool to monitor suspects with little to no involvement from judges or other members of the criminal justice system. They could be watching any of us right now.
Also notable is the fact that many cell phone service providers have found a way to profit off of this trend by supplementing “surveillance fees” to police departments in return for allowing police to monitor their clients. Some departments have been noted to track dozens of phones a month in related to both emergency cases as well as routine investigations.
Police have said on many occasions that cell phone tracking has become a powerful weapon in their surveillance arsenal since it allows them to see tons of information on their targets. In California, one police manual has a section which provides more information on cell phone tracking, claiming that cell phones are “the virtual biographer of our daily activities.” The sheer amount of information that is stored and distributed by cell phones and their users is astronomical, allowing police officers to learn everything by watching a cell phone.
However, as more cases of cell phone tracking by police officers become apparent, many civil liberties advocates say that this form of surveillance could be a violation of some of our constitutional rights, especially when the surveillance is performed without judicial orders or proper warranting.
Cell phone tracking is not a new practice for law enforcement. There have been a few cases of police using cell phones to monitor suspect activity over the past few years, but it has all been with the common acceptation that they were done legally and with proper warranting. However, recent reports published by the ACLU suggest that cell phone monitoring is being used by police much more than originally thought, and with fewer precautions than we would have liked to assume.
The subject recently released some more press earlier this year when the Supreme Court addressed the issue of placing a GPS device on a car without warranting. They ruled it was a violation of the Fourth Amendment if police tracked a car without a warrant. The question of cell phone tracking, however, remained open.
Many departments try to keep cell tracking secret, the documents show, because of possible backlash from the public and legal problems. Although there is no evidence that the police have listened to phone calls without warrants, some defense lawyers have challenged other kinds of evidence gained through warrantless cell tracking.
Congress and about a dozen states are considering proposals to tighten restrictions on the use of cell tracking.