US now allowing feds to track Americans by cell phone
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Federal prosecutors are being granted the right to reach out and find someone by 'pinging' cellphones "upon request", according to a front page article in Friday's Washington Post.
"Federal officials are routinely asking courts to order cellphone companies to furnish real-time tracking data so they can pinpoint the whereabouts of drug traffickers, fugitives and other criminal suspects, according to judges and industry lawyers," Ellen Nakashima reports for the paper. "In some cases, judges have granted the requests without requiring the government to demonstrate that there is probable cause to believe that a crime is taking place or that the inquiry will yield evidence of a crime."
The article continues, "Privacy advocates fear such a practice may expose average Americans to a new level of government scrutiny of their daily lives."
Excerpts from article:
Such requests run counter to the Justice Department's internal recommendation that federal prosecutors seek warrants based on probable cause to obtain precise location data in private areas. The requests and orders are sealed at the government's request, so it is difficult to know how often the orders are issued or denied.
The issue is taking on greater relevance as wireless carriers are racing to offer sleek services that allow cellphone users to know with the touch of a button where their friends or families are. The companies are hoping to recoup investments they have made to meet a federal mandate to provide enhanced 911 (E911) location tracking. Sprint Nextel, for instance, boasts that its "loopt" service even sends an alert when a friend is near, "putting an end to missed connections in the mall, at the movies or around town."
"Most people don't realize it, but they're carrying a tracking device in their pocket," said Kevin Bankston of the privacy advocacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation. "Cellphones can reveal very precise information about your location, and yet legal protections are very much up in the air."
FULL POST ARTICLE CAN BE READ AT THIS LINK