That’s how many times your cellphone registers its location with cell networks – several times a minute. It’s just how cellphones work, and there’s no way to stop your phone from reporting its location while still getting a wireless signal.
I’m certainly no technophile, but I still have my phone on or near me all of the time. This means that my cell phone is essentially registering my location when registering its location.
Where you go tells so much about what you do, which tells so much about who you are.
Think about what you go in the course of a day, a week, a year. Do you work? Where? Do you drop kids off at daycare? Do you go to church? How often? Do you go to restaurants? Bars? Where do you shop? Do you have hobbies? Do you like sports? Do you visit relatives and friends? Where do you go on vacation and what do you do when you’re there? This is a staggering amount of information, and it is information that the government should not have carte blanch access to.The ACLU recently conducted a nationwide public records request and found that police in Nevada and across the country are using cell phones to find someone’s location, and sometimes they are not getting a warrant before they do so. Without a warrant, police do not have to show that they have probable cause, allowing the police to search – or, in the case of cellphones, to track – whoever they want whenever they want.
A document released by the Reno Police Department admits that cellphone tracking has been “misused.” The document goes on to say, “Some cell carriers have been complying with such requests, but they cannot be expected to continue to do so as it is outside the scope of the law,” and cautions, “Continued misuse by law enforcement agencies will undoubtedly backfire.” An article in the Las Vegas Sun reports that the North Las Vegas Police Department and the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department are using cell phone records to track people, but they only “sometimes” obtain a warrant, according to a Clark County Public Defender.
Earlier this year, the United States Supreme Court ruled in U.S. v. Jones that police need a warrant to put a GPS tracking device on a person's car. A GPS device has to be physically attached to a person’s car by the government, but it is limited to tracking where the car goes, as opposed to the incredibly mobile (no pun intended) cellphones.
So why can police use cellphones for locating people without a warrant? The ACLU believes they shouldn’t and supports requiring warrants for GPS and cell phone tracking. We support the GPS Act that is before Congress, which would require law enforcement to get a warrant based on probable cause before accessing location information. Please contact your members of Congress to support the GPS Act.
Since who you are is what you do is where you go, we really need to make sure that information about where you go stays protected.