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Many Police Departments Engage in Warrantless Cell Phone Tracking

Unknown Lamer posted more than 2 years ago | from the are-they-watching-you? dept.

Privacy 85

alphadogg writes with a distressing bit of analysis of the training materials acquired by the ACLU last week. From the article: "Many law enforcement agencies across the U.S. track mobile phones as part of investigations, but only a minority ask for court-ordered warrants, according to a report released Monday by the American Civil Liberties Union. More than 90 law enforcement agencies said they track mobile phones during investigations, but only six reported receiving court-approved warrants after demonstrating that there's probable cause of a crime, according to an ACLU report based on public information requests filed by the group last year." The ACLU has a handy page allowing you to see if your local PD engages in such practices.

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85 comments

What is meant by "tracking" (4, Interesting)

bonch (38532) | more than 2 years ago | (#39553143)

I'm curious to know what exactly is being tracked. The summary makes you think that everything is being tracked, like conversations and text messages, but it's actually just location that's being tracked. Companies already track such data for service quality--for example, the iPhone tracks cell phone towers to determine strongest signal areas, which ultimately means it ends up with a history of phone locations. Most smartphones do this. That said, for the government to be able to track private property without permission for purposes of investigation is different, and there should be protection against such invasive surveillance. Unfortunately, I don't think much progress will be made in that regard as long as Obama is in office--he's demonstrated that he's more than happy to embrace warrantless surveillance of all kinds.

Re:What is meant by "tracking" (1)

GmExtremacy (2579091) | more than 2 years ago | (#39553245)

It's time to censor into so that none remain. Remember the Gamemakerdom!

Re:What is meant by "tracking" (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39554651)

How is the parent post a Troll or Flamebait? Do the moderators gang up on this guy or something?

Re:What is meant by "tracking" (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39554737)

Slashdot in 2012 has a fraction of its former reader numbers, so most who are left are the devoted fanboys. If you reference Microsoft or Apple in any form, even when it's totally relevant to the conversation, you get followed by anonymous stalkers and modded down, sometimes days after the story has left the front page. Meta-moderation is useless.

The entire Slashdot comment system has become useless and irrelevant. Reading it is like time-traveling to 1999. May it rest in peace for its once-interesting contribution to the web of the late 90s.

Re:What is meant by "tracking" (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39556341)

He mentioned Obama.
from dec 07
OBAMA! your on video record saying no more warantless wiretapping, thanks for voting yes to it yesterday.

Re:What is meant by "tracking" (1)

triffid_98 (899609) | more than 2 years ago | (#39557181)

The summary makes you think that everything is being tracked, like conversations and text messages, but it's actually just location that's being tracked.

Its not as straightforward as all that. Cellular providers are not required to keep your information private, and will generally cooperate with these requests without any sort of warrant.

When 'incidents' happen they can find out exactly who was there (well, whoever has a phone which is most of us) and then backtrack location data to help come up with a list of likely suspects. Its all perfectly legal. Creepy and borderline orwellian, but legal.

Re:What is meant by "tracking" (2)

sociocapitalist (2471722) | more than 2 years ago | (#39557397)

"I don't think much progress will be made in that regard as long as Obama is in office--he's demonstrated that he's more than happy to embrace warrantless surveillance of all kinds." ...as if any of the other mainstream politicians would be any better.

Re:What is meant by "tracking" (1)

TheCarp (96830) | more than 2 years ago | (#39559151)

Certainly not, however, the point remains, he wont be doing jack for progress. Being as good as any other mainstream politician is hardly a bonus point.

The police (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39553215)

They're as creepy as an iPhone app. Can we ban them?

captcha: phoenix... Is that a new unix-like operating system?

ACLU are pussies (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39553225)

ACLU are a bunch of whiny pussy fagets. We need to untie the hands of our police officers so they can do they're jobs. How come their the only ones who arent allowed to make the most of todays technology? Gimme a break you fucken ACLU fagets.

Re:ACLU are pussies (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39553275)

If Zimmerman is any example, I think we just need to get rid of our police officers because they're not doing their jobs anyways.

Re:ACLU are pussies (1)

ExploHD (888637) | more than 2 years ago | (#39553385)

Let me guess, you also say that government should remove all regulations for business so they can thrive and hire everyone who wants a job? Do you want the government so small that you could drown it in a bath tub? I'm sure that when your rights are violated under the Constitution by the police, you'll say "it's okay, they're just trying to find the bad guys. I still have my due process in the courts. LOL"

Re:ACLU are pussies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39553387)

We've been tracking you, and it seems you spend a lot of time at gay bars.

SO who is the 'faget' now, sonny boy ?

                                                                  - The Police

Re:ACLU are pussies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39553537)

because we don't want to live in a papers please society?

Re:ACLU are pussies (1)

tibit (1762298) | more than 2 years ago | (#39576183)

"They are there in their room" -- write it down a 100 times until it sticks. Nuff said.

Administrative Subpoena (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39553237)

It says in many instances the police obtained an administrative subpoena. While it's less of a standard, there is at least some standard. While it's correct to say "police obtain tracking data without a warrant," it would be more correct to say "police obtain tracking data with subpoenas and court orders instead of warrant." The difference being is a cop cannot unilaterally obtain information.

Why do they need a warrant? (0)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#39553273)

They never needed a warrant to "tail" a guy driving round in his car, or "shadow" him walking down the street, so why need one to tail/shadow a cellphone? I don't think any of these events is unreasonable.

Re:Why do they need a warrant? (4, Insightful)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 2 years ago | (#39553299)

They never needed a warrant to "tail" a guy driving round in his car, or "shadow" him walking down the street, so why need one to tail/shadow a cellphone?

Because I can tail a guy, or "shadow" him walking down the street. Anyone can do those activities in public. Not anyone can eavesdrop on a cell phone which is being used in someone's home, car, etc. Warrants are when the police want to do something an ordinary citizen cannot.

Re:Why do they need a warrant? (4, Insightful)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | more than 2 years ago | (#39553503)

Because I can tail a guy, or "shadow" him walking down the street. Anyone can do those activities in public. Not anyone can eavesdrop on a cell phone which is being used in someone's home, car, etc. Warrants are when the police want to do something an ordinary citizen cannot.

Not exactly; the reason it's illegal is not because "ordinary citizens cannot" track cell phones (especially considering that with deep enough pockets, an 'ordinary citizen' very much can track any cell phone), but rather because a cell phone, being a privately owned, personal communication device, falls under the category of "personal effects" and possibly "papers" (as both are used for communication) and thus is subject to protection under the 4th Amendment.

Re:Why do they need a warrant? (2)

cbope (130292) | more than 2 years ago | (#39557391)

As in 4th amendment of the Constitution? I thought that was ripped to shreds over the past 11 years...

Seriously though, if more US citizens really understood the Constitution and how much we've lost in the last 11 years since 9/11, there would be more outcry. Far too many people are willing to give up their rights granted in the Constitution and Bill of Rights in the name of "security" or "terrorism". Both are false reasons to lay down your rights and surrender all control to the government, in fact you should stand up even more for your rights. This does not preclude a strong government, proper checks and balances have to be in place. It's the checks and balances that have largely been ripped out in the name of security.

Re:Why do they need a warrant? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39553587)

Because I can tail a guy, or "shadow" him walking down the street. Anyone can do those activities in public. Not anyone can eavesdrop on a cell phone which is being used in someone's home, car, etc.

They aren't eavesdropping on the conversation, they are just tracking the phone by its transmissions.

There were some shopping malls in the news a few months back that were doing the same thing to see how you walk through the mall. Not illegal, but very very creepy.

Re:Why do they need a warrant? (3, Informative)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 2 years ago | (#39554353)

Actually, it is probably not legal to snoop on those cellular frequencies (even if you are not actually decoding the audio data), per section 302(d) [cornell.edu] of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 (or, more formally, title 47 USC, chapter 5, subchapter III, Part I, section 302(d)).

Re:Why do they need a warrant? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39554063)

Any normal person can do this with a trip to radio shack and a couple google searches. So yes, anyone can eavesdrop quite easily with minimal effort. Its not a matter of big money, high tech equipment, engineering genius or anything else, its just simply a matter of desire to actually do it.

So no there isnt really a difference.

Re:Why do they need a warrant? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39554355)

Bullshit. Schematics or it didn't happen.

Re:Why do they need a warrant? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39558667)

What does the couple google search? I don't understand. Is English not your first language?

Re:Why do they need a warrant? (3, Insightful)

surmak (1238244) | more than 2 years ago | (#39553333)

They never needed a warrant to "tail" a guy driving round in his car, or "shadow" him walking down the street, so why need one to tail/shadow a cellphone? I don't think any of these events is unreasonable.

The best argument against this is that trailing a person requires resources (the cop), and has an opportunity cost for the police. They are not going to tail someone without a (hopefully good) reason. If, on the other hand, they engage in mass surveillance with minimal cost cost per victim, that eliminates the cost for the police to engage in such behavior.

Re:Why do they need a warrant? (5, Insightful)

The Wild Norseman (1404891) | more than 2 years ago | (#39553671)

The best argument against this is that trailing a person requires resources (the cop), and has an opportunity cost for the police. They are not going to tail someone without a (hopefully good) reason. If, on the other hand, they engage in mass surveillance with minimal cost cost per victim, that eliminates the cost for the police to engage in such behavior.

The point needs to be made that, absent probable cause or reasonable articulable suspicion, the police/government has no authority to track anyone. So instead of you and I "hoping" that they can't follow us without a good reason (and thus, by extension, "hoping" that they won't abuse the privilege), they are first required to have a good reason before being allowed to follow us.

Re:Why do they need a warrant? (1)

surmak (1238244) | more than 2 years ago | (#39558257)

The point needs to be made that, absent probable cause or reasonable articulable suspicion, the police/government has no authority to track anyone. So instead of you and I "hoping" that they can't follow us without a good reason (and thus, by extension, "hoping" that they won't abuse the privilege), they are first required to have a good reason before being allowed to follow us.

I was referring to that case where a police officer follows someone out in the open, on public streets. In that case, the cops have as much freedom of movement as anyone else does. If they were to trespass on private property, or take any other action that would be illegal for a normal civilian to take (wiretaps, access to any non-public corporate data, tampering with someone vehicle to attach a tracking device, etc.) then yes, they should have to get a warrant.

Re:Why do they need a warrant? (1)

The Wild Norseman (1404891) | more than 2 years ago | (#39564443)

I think you and I don't have much in the way of a disagreement. I'm saying, however, that the police are not as free in this manner as another citizen would be. Due to the special powers granted to them on behalf of the people of the United States, they have to abide by certain rules that the rest of the population does not.

Accordingly, I do not believe that police are allowed to do so. That they do, irrespective of the constitutionality of the behavior, is irrelevant to my point.

Re:Why do they need a warrant? (5, Insightful)

The Wild Norseman (1404891) | more than 2 years ago | (#39553343)

They never needed a warrant to "tail" a guy driving round in his car, or "shadow" him walking down the street, so why need one to tail/shadow a cellphone? I don't think any of these events is unreasonable.

I think they are unreasonable; absent reasonable articulable suspicion that someone is committing or is about to commit a crime, then there is no legal justification for any kind of tracking whatsoever.

Why people seem to think -- or have fallen for -- the absurdity that the constitution outlines the only rights we have and not as a curb on governmental powers is beyond me.

All together now -- ABSENT REASONABLE ARTICULABLE SUSPICION OR PROBABLE CAUSE, THE GOVERNMENT HAS NO RIGHT TO ACT. It matters not that computers are fast enough to scan a billion license plates per hour, or that certain activities do not carry an expectation of privacy. That's the sugary lie that is used to get us to swallow the ultimate poison of the police state.

Re:Why do they need a warrant? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39553441)

I think they are unreasonable; absent reasonable articulable suspicion that someone is committing or is about to commit a crime, then there is no legal justification for any kind of tracking whatsoever.

Well, the obvious solution is to make more things illegal.

Re:Why do they need a warrant? (1)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#39553481)

Perhaps we should delete the word "unreasonable" from the 4th amendment, in order to remove the police's ability to justify everything (including patdowns in airports, train terminals, and other random VIPR locations).

Re:Why do they need a warrant? (2)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#39553445)

A citizen can "tail" any other citizen driving around in his car, or "shadow" him walking down the street. Therefore, no extra authority is needed for a police officer to do the same.

Can a citizen (say, me) engage in cell phone tracking of another citizen (say, you)? If so, please tell me how. If not, explain why we should grant cops this extra power without court oversight?

Re:Why do they need a warrant? (4, Insightful)

miltonw (892065) | more than 2 years ago | (#39554601)

Actually, the police, and the government in general, must have more checks in place than the average citizen -- because the police and the government have so much more power than the average citizen.

The founders had it right, we citizens must have powerful checks against government/police abuse or we will lose all our freedoms.

Re:Why do they need a warrant? (1)

profplump (309017) | more than 2 years ago | (#39557837)

A) Because a warrant has always been needed to follow someone on private property. Unless your cell phone knows to stop sending location data to the cops as soon as you walk out of public view then it's a new power that the cops didn't have before, to observe your actions when you have a reasonable expectation of privacy.

B) Because the effort required to physically follow someone acts as a balance; the labor costs associated with manually tracking a person discourage the police from engaging in widespread or long-term tracking. It could still be done if the police thought it was worth the resources, but it's not something they could do routinely or for large groups of people. However, using cell-phone location data, the police could easily track everyone in town, 24/7, indefinitely, with very little effort or cost, and can obtain such tracking data retroactively -- they don't even need to start tracking you, they can search your location history after the fact. Both those changes represent a significant increase in police power with respect to physically tailing someone.

Re:Why do they need a warrant? (2)

baileydau (1037622) | more than 2 years ago | (#39558047)

They never needed a warrant to "tail" a guy driving round in his car, or "shadow" him walking down the street, so why need one to tail/shadow a cellphone? I don't think any of these events is unreasonable.

My biggest problem with this oft-cited logic is that:
a) It takes considerable effort to "tail a guy". You really want to know what "he's" up to. vs the electronic version that is virtually "free".

b) You can't retrospectively "tail a guy" in real life.

c) The real life situation has boundaries. You can't follow them in private settings, not so the electronic version.

d) The "target" of the surveillance has the opportunity to observe the "observation". Remember, they are innocent till proven guilty in most parts of the world. I'm really concerned that that is / has changing.

Just because there are *some* similarities between two situations, doesn't make them the same.

Re:Why do they need a warrant? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39558923)

They never needed a warrant to "tail" a guy driving round in his car, or "shadow" him walking down the street, so why need one to tail/shadow a cellphone?

They don't need a warrant to "tail" someone because there is a built-in limit. In order to justify the manpower to their boss (and the public) they need to have a valid reason to to so. This is quite different from an autonomous computer system (which takes no manpower) monitoring and tracking the locations of all citizens, "just because we can". This could be taken as an almost textbook definition of "unreasonable search".

I wonder how this works (5, Insightful)

MobyDisk (75490) | more than 2 years ago | (#39553293)

From the report:

Each provider has a different system for authorizing police use of location information and we comply with whatever that cell phone provider requests.

How does law enforcement make a request to track a cell phone? Is it a phone call? A web-based system? If cell companies are giving out this information without warrants, hopefully they have some security to prevent someone from impersonating a police officer and tracking someone.

A limitation of the US Constitution is that it requires the government to get warrants for things, but it does not force civilians to ask for those warrants. So if companies or individuals voluntarily choose to provide this information then there is no need to obtain a warrant. People must make a stand if they really care. But what incentive do corporations have to do this?

Re:I wonder how this works (4, Interesting)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 2 years ago | (#39553351)

So if companies or individuals voluntarily choose to provide this information then there is no need to obtain a warrant. People must make a stand if they really care. But what incentive do corporations have to do this?

They can only provide that information if it is not solicited, otherwise it is inadmissible as evidence. So when the police decide to monitor someone's cell phone without a warrant, they are giving that evidence up -- it can't be used. But if in the course of listening to that cell phone they discover an opportunity to observe someone engaged in illegal activity, then the police can simply "happen" to be sitting in a van next door when the crime takes place. Of course, with the Patriot Act et al and our new conservative supreme court, that evidence can sometimes be given post facto approval and then used against a person.

But.. that's how it used to work; So long as the police only presented a chain of evidence based on observations and reasonable cause for any evidence obtained, it was okay; There might have been more evidence, but it couldn't be used or presented... That is how the system ensured justice. So it has always been okay to bend the rules -- but only recently has it been okay to not have any.

Re:I wonder how this works (1)

Obfuscant (592200) | more than 2 years ago | (#39554103)

So when the police decide to monitor someone's cell phone without a warrant, they are giving that evidence up -- it can't be used. But if in the course of listening to that cell phone

You're conflating tracking with listening. Two very different things, and two very different levels of request. I looked at TFA and it doesn't say "listening" from what I saw, only tracking, and it doesn't differentiate tracking for criminal prosecution from tracking for health and safety.

Re:I wonder how this works (2)

Obfuscant (592200) | more than 2 years ago | (#39553961)

How does law enforcement make a request to track a cell phone? Is it a phone call? A web-based system?

For the carriers I am familiar with, there is a form that needs to be faxed with an official signature. I think a police dispatcher signature is sufficient, maybe it takes a dispatch supervisor. At that point, you can talk to the technical people to get the info you need.

A limitation of the US Constitution is that it requires the government to get warrants for things,

"Dear Judge: there is a lost hiker in the coastal range, somewhere to the west of Eugene. He called his girlfriend to get help but didn't have enough battery left to call 911. We know his cell number but not his location, and he didn't know enough to be specific. It's winter, he's cold and unprepared, and it's 2AM. We'll be right over to get a warrant signed, once we can find the county prosecutor to write it up. Thanks."

Cell phone tracking has become a major tool for search and rescue. Even if they don't call 911 from a CDMA phone (gsm doesn't have E911 gps, or maybe it's vice versa), the cellphone company can provide rather accurate data about location. Some mushroom hunters near Coos Bay could have been found quickly, if one of them didn't have a warrant out for his arrest and he was hiding from the people looking for him.

Re:I wonder how this works (1)

IonOtter (629215) | more than 2 years ago | (#39554307)

Oh, how nice.

1 case of search & rescue in Eugene, Wa, where some mushroom hunter gets a free ride home.

Meanwhile, there are a couple thousand cases of abuse per day across the entire US.

I see you have your papers with you at all times, Citizen. Well done, the Computer is pleased.

Re:I wonder how this works (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 2 years ago | (#39554563)

some mushroom hunter gets a free ride home.

If ever there was a slashdot post that was in dire need of a "whoosh" reply, the parent is it.

Re:I wonder how this works (1)

MobyDisk (75490) | more than 2 years ago | (#39556803)

Firemen don't get a warrant to knock down the door to put out a fire either. I don't think either example violates the 4th amendment. If you think it does, I suggest proposing an amendment to fix that.

Re:I wonder how this works (1)

Obfuscant (592200) | more than 2 years ago | (#39562691)

Firemen don't get a warrant to knock down the door to put out a fire either. I don't think either example violates the 4th amendment. If you think it does, I suggest proposing an amendment to fix that.

You're right, firemen can bust right in. But then, there is no law that says that firemen must get a warrant to enter a burning building. The proposed law says that police must get a warrant to get tracking info. While the 4th amendment might allow warrantless tracking in the case of lost persons, a law can override that and require it.

Re:I wonder how this works (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39584069)

I'm a paramedic. I've knocked down doors when somebody has been bleeding to death on the other side, and I didn't need a warrant. However, I had a reasonable belief that the person on the other side really did want to see me, and wasn't going to care too much about his door. If the police break down a door, what are the chances they're as welcome as I or a firefighter would be?

Re:I wonder how this works (2)

stephanruby (542433) | more than 2 years ago | (#39554913)

If cell companies are giving out this information without warrants, hopefully they have some security to prevent someone from impersonating a police officer and tracking someone.

Is that the only problem you see with this?

In California, any police officer can already pull up any person's medical prescriptions just for curiosity's sake (and not just controlled substances, they get access to every prescription ever written for that person). In other words, anytime a police officer is interested in dating somebody, that officer can just pull up that person's prescriptions and infer all kinds of things about that person's mental health status, birth control prescriptions, sexual activity, and possible STDs. And according to one former disgruntled SFPD officer at least, who was suing the department for wrongful dismissal, this is something that everyone in his police department routinely did.

This reminds me of an experiment that was conducted a while ago, during the times of Tonya Harding (if anyone can remember her). They had Tonya Harding enter a private clinic on some BS reason (it wasn't even during any of the incidents that made her famous, but it was still before the Olympics). And according to the computerized records of the clinic, there were 360+ computer queries for her private medical records throughout the clinic on that one day she visited.

And if that incident has taught us anything, it's that given half a chance, anyone, even trained professionals, will violate the privacy of others -- for no other reason than curiosity -- if it's too easy for them to query anyone they like (for no work reasons whatsoever).

Re:I wonder how this works (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39556363)

LOL says who? You?

IOW, by what law or regulation? Or are you just being an ass?

Re:I wonder how this works (2)

MobyDisk (75490) | more than 2 years ago | (#39556815)

In California, any police officer can already pull up any person's medical prescription

In my state, I do not need a medical prescription to get cell phone service.

Re:I wonder how this works (1)

E_Ron.Eous (2521544) | more than 2 years ago | (#39559053)

They go to a judge and get a warrant. The warrant is then presented to the carrier. Pre-cell phone days, the Federal building in every major city was located right across the street from the LEC central office just for this reason.

God says... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39553305)

Catastrophic_Success nevada jealousy figuratively special_case
umm_what_now one_small_step how_about yeah no_you_cant
population laziness desert later exports That's_gonna_leave_a_mark
heads_I_win_tails_you_lose trippy I_am_not_amused ba_ha
man don't_push_it hit I_was_just_thinking didn't_I_say_that
how_bout_it Obama meek It's_nice_being_God how_about_those_yankees
I_just_might Varoom unix how_about wont_you_be_my_neighbor
how_bout_it I_forgot praise What_I_want shist fight Jesus
stoked joker ridiculous wanna_bet hollywood arent_you_clever
Mars my_precious not_that_theres_anything_wrong job astronomical
high_five love Zzzzzzzz everythings_a_okay scum hey_thats_right
Oh_Hell_No other I_see_nothing industrious I'll_let_you_know
piety figuratively well_I_never what_do_you_expect adultery
programming holier_than_thou not_too_shabby service_sector
fer_sure God_smack insane little_fish evolution hope meh
endure bad astounding be_happy begs_the_question

Re:God says... (0)

GmExtremacy (2579091) | more than 2 years ago | (#39553339)

Calm down. Just calm down! Use Gamemaker right now! I command you to return to Gamemakerdom!

No surprise (3, Insightful)

macwhizkid (864124) | more than 2 years ago | (#39553381)

When the iPhone "Find My Friends" app came out last year, I was rather surprised by how many people were opposed to it and refused to share information. "I don't want other people to know where I am all the time" was the most common complaint.

My response at the time was, "do you really think the police/federal government/big telecoms can't already track you?"

If you're going somewhere you don't want other people to know about, leave your phone at home.

Re:No surprise (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39560095)

Or, bring your phone wherever you like for your own personal convenience and either

a) Don't install an app that tells people where you are when you don't want them to know

or

b) Install the app knowing that you're broadcasting where you go

I just don't get the point of telling everyone you know where you are at all times. If you need them to know, send a text, otherwise, stop being so goddamned ego-centric as to assume that anyone else gives a fuck about knowing where you are every moment of every day.

Re:No surprise (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39561869)

Or you could just remove the battery. Oh, wait...

My local PD refused, even with permission (5, Interesting)

swillden (191260) | more than 2 years ago | (#39553439)

My teenage daughter suffers from a severe emotional disorder [wikipedia.org] and when in a bad emotional state is often a danger to herself and others, so when she beat up my wife, locked her in the basement, stole the car and ran away, I asked the local PD to track her phone. They said they could only do it with a court order and that would take 24 hours -- way too long. Even when I pointed out that the phone was actually mine -- I bought it and I pay the bill -- they still said they couldn't.

In general, I heartily aprove of requiring court approval for such things, but it seems like in a case where it might literally be the difference between life and death for a young woman with a record of suicide attempts and who has committed serious crimes (assault, unlawful imprisonment, grand theft auto, driving without a license) and where the owner of the phone not only approved but requested that it be tracked, they should do it. I also asked the wireless carrier (Verizon) and they said they would only do it if the police requested.

(The outcome of the story was that I had a pretty good guess about where she was headed and I found her within a few hours, about 60 miles from home. The police then caught her and took her to the ER for suicide watch and psychiatric evaluation. I didn't find where she ditched the car until a couple of days later. It required about $2K in repairs. I wish my daughter could be "repaired" so cheaply and effectively.)

Re:My local PD refused, even with permission (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39553553)

Most smart phones have a 'find my phone' feature that you can enable. Then you can log in to a webpage remotely to see where the device is currently located.

I'd suggest this for you since it requires 0 red tape or cooperation from local police.

Re:My local PD refused, even with permission (1)

swillden (191260) | more than 2 years ago | (#39554203)

Most smart phones have a 'find my phone' feature that you can enable. Then you can log in to a webpage remotely to see where the device is currently located.

I'd suggest this for you since it requires 0 red tape or cooperation from local police.

Yeah, but her phone isn't a smartphone -- for good reasons, also related to her condition.

Re:My local PD refused, even with permission (1)

ATMAvatar (648864) | more than 2 years ago | (#39556941)

Did you try contacting your phone service provider? They are under no such legal restraints, and it could be a PR win for them if it was a serious situation like that.

Re:My local PD refused, even with permission (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39557359)

He did, they denied. It's in the post.

Re:My local PD refused, even with permission (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39553657)

>> I asked the local PD to track her phone. They said they could only do it with a court order and that would take 24 hours -- way too long.

I'm glad your situation worked out for you. I agree that it takes way too long to get a court order and in your situation it could have been a life and death problem. I see an easy solution to this problem.

1) Warrants should not take more than 15 minutes to get approved. I'm not sure I can fathom why it should take longer, even in the middle of the night.
2) Warrants should be retro-active when it's time sensitive. A retro-active warrant could be execute but MUST be completed and approved within 24 hours after the fact. If the retro-warrant is executed incorrectly then there should be a punishment system, maybe a bond or insurance would cover such a dilemma?

Re:My local PD refused, even with permission (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39553813)

God no.

We need to trample everyone's rights because, "Think of the children!"

I feel for the GP, but the proper solution is not to make warrants optional, even more trivial to get, or fucking retroactive. Cops abuse their power up to and including committing murder. They don't need any more power.

Re:My local PD refused, even with permission (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39554059)

The difference between Law and Justice is that the Law has no mercy, no compassion, no understanding. We have Law because since at least the time of Hammurabi, we could not depend on judges to reliably dispense Justice.

A similar system applies in my home town. If a person is involuntarily committed to for mental health observation, that person will not receive treatment if that person refuses treatment, even in circumstances, where they secretly want to be forced to undergo treatment. Which may sound insane, but then, that was the point. There's no distinction in the law between insane people who covertly wish treatment but deny it, insane people who sincerely do not wish treatment, even subconsciously, and sane people who were committed because of apparently insane behavior who do not wish (inapplicable) treatment. Which, admittedly are distinctions that can be hard even for well-trained medical personnel, much less cops and judges. But it does make it hard for to help the odd ones out.

One of the reasons that judges issue warrants instead of police agencies is that in the USA, judges are about the only people who are allowed justice, and even then, only with restrictions. Juries are supposed to be concerned only with Law. The police are supposed to be concerned only with Law. Occasionally one or the other attempts to mix in a little justice, but only judges are formally empowered to dispense Justice.

Of all the places where Justice is served, probably the two most critical are warrants and sentencing. It is the job of the judge to determine whether a warrant is in order, not the police. It is the job of all of us to ensure that our judges do not abuse that privilege.

Re:My local PD refused, even with permission (1)

swillden (191260) | more than 2 years ago | (#39554191)

I agree with the idea of quick warrants -- in an emergency you get a judge to quickly review and sign off. Retroactive warrants... not so much. I was never a fan of the FISA warrant process, even before they began simply ignoring it.

Re:My local PD refused, even with permission (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39555383)

How about, fuck you?

Maybe they should have *thought* about this earlier and

  1. not given access to a vehicle for someone that can kill someone else on the road because they are mentally unstable,

AND

  2. get a pre-approved order to track her cell phone, you know, ahead of the time that you actually need it. Heck, install tracking software on the cellphone and be done.

Why every solution to every problem is someone trying to install a police state?

Re:My local PD refused, even with permission (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39557797)

Your request is prioritized differently than a police investigation. The police department's investigations determine career advancement and assist in maintaining the social order desired by decision makers. Your request does none of those things. Also in the warrant acquisition process the police must make representations. Representations initiated by involved parties other than the police can constitute hearsay relayed by the police. Hearsay is generally not suitable for the warrant acquisition process. It takes time to check out you and your story which may be part of the 24 hours. An anonymous call indicating that the car your daughter was driving contained a large quantity of drugs may have resulted in immediate action though the actions taken may not have been relayed to you nor desired by you.

Re:My local PD refused, even with permission (1)

Elldallan (901501) | more than 2 years ago | (#39560387)

Law enforcement should not have easy access to a persons medical journal and thus should not know that the person is considered a suicide risk.
Thus the crimes you point out should be the same as any other crime and thus require a warrant.
Even if you are the owner of the phone it is not your privacy that is being invaded so no your opinion should not matter at all.

What you should be able to do is go to a court and have an expert testify in the presence of a judge whether your daughter at that very moment is in control of her faculties and able to make rational decisions. If that expert is of the opinion such is the case then your daughter could request that the court approve that a person she names be able to request cellphone tracking from the police.
If your daughter is still a minor or for other reasons have an appointed legal guardian then that guardian can make that request of the court.

So you/your daughter should be able to take reasonable precautions but if something happens you have not taken such precautions then you should have the same recourse as everybody else with all the delays and red tape that entails.

The reason that your status as owner of the phone should not matter is that there is a multitude of different situations where someone might stand as the owner of a phone used by another person. For example if you hold the contract on your wife's cellphone and you suspect that she is cheating on you should you be able to request that she be tracked? I think not.

Re:My local PD refused, even with permission (1)

swillden (191260) | more than 2 years ago | (#39562673)

Law enforcement should not have easy access to a persons medical journal and thus should not know that the person is considered a suicide risk.

These police officers had already taken her to the ER for suicide watch twice before. Her history is very well documented.

Even if you are the owner of the phone it is not your privacy that is being invaded so no your opinion should not matter at all.

If nothing else, they should be able to track the phone in order to recover my stolen property.

Re:My local PD refused, even with permission (1)

tibit (1762298) | more than 2 years ago | (#39576523)

I know that it must be crushing to a parent to have a kid commit suicide, but just maybe, just maybe, her suicide would end her suffering? Wouldn't that be a better outcome in a grand scheme of things? She is obviously in a distress. She is not a terminally ill cancer patient who begs for euthanasia, yet her suffering may be homologous to that caused by physical pain. I think there's a point at which people become irrational and self-centered when preventing others from dying. I can't judge if it's so in this case, but it certainly should be kept in mind.

Re:My local PD refused, even with permission (1)

swillden (191260) | more than 2 years ago | (#39581423)

Her death would definitely make things easier on us, but if she can get through the next few years she will recover so, no, it's not the best option.

Re:My local PD refused, even with permission (1)

tibit (1762298) | more than 2 years ago | (#39581985)

If the recovery is not out of the question then I agree -- it's worth the effort.

Quite an informative clicky clicky..not.. (1)

SuperCharlie (1068072) | more than 2 years ago | (#39553459)

So I clicked the source link which then had a US map with FOI requests sent to different states. I clicky Mssouri (I live there) and there is a request from Green Co.. not where I live.. but in the ball park.. then I click the response from the Sherrif's legal counsel which said..for each question..around 10 or so.. we dont keep those records and have no way to know or search for this info.

At the end they said.. if you have a certain time frame or case you'd like us to look into.. send us a request or give us a call.

Appears that as long as you dont keep track of it.. theres nothing to report on a FOI request... Sounds about right lately.

Read the ACLU Report for local PD... (2)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | more than 2 years ago | (#39553575)

And aside the fact they respond to every single inquiry with "We don't keep records of that," I found the final paragraph quite telling:

In addition to our response that we do not collect or retain lists that state if and when cell phone records were obtained during an investigation, none of your inquiries are for an "arrest report," an "incident report," or an "investigative report," pursuant to Missouri Statute Section 610.100, and therefore are not open records pursuant to the Sunshine Law.

In other words, you were vague enough in your request that we can legally tell you to fuck off, so... fuck off.
Continued:

Further, your inquiries contain no time frames or specific cases. If you were able to more narrowly tailor your inquiries to a specific case(s) during a specific time frame(s), I would be able to research whether cell phone location records were utilized in one or more specific cases. As it stands, your requests are limitless and we possess no mechanism to search our entire data base for the presence of cell phone location records.

Really? "no mechanism" to search a database? Doesn't that kind of defeat the purpose of building a damn database in the first place?

Here's a Sweet Dodge? (1)

IonOtter (629215) | more than 2 years ago | (#39554145)

I looked at the response for Cary, NC? Sweet little dodge in there...

Several records that might arguably be responsive to your request are copyrighted materials. They are Arrest, Search and Investigation in North Carolina and Cell Phone Technology for Criminal investigations.

The Town is unable to make copies of copyrighted materials. You may inspect these copyrighted records in the Cary Police Department during normal business hours. Please call (919)469-4017 to schedule a date and time for such inspection. You may also purchase Arrest, Search and Investigation in North Carolina at the following address: http://shopping.netsuitecom/s.nl/c.433425/sc.7/.f [shopping.netsuitecom] .

Finally, there may be records of criminal investigation(s) or of criminal intelligence information that relate to cell phone location records. Under the public records law to cell phone location records. records of criminal investigations and records of criminal intelligence information compiled by the Cary Police Department are not public records. We have conducted no search of criminal investigations or criminal intelligence information records.

(Emphasis in bold is mine)

Very nice. You can purchase the records, or you can come and view them in person. Just for S&G, I tried to follow that URL, but it doesn't seem to work.

I will note that some people really are willing to show up at the county court house, pay the fee, and sit there for a few hours while the clerk makes the requested copies. Likewise, said folks usually have the document scanner warmed up and waiting at the local Kinko's, ready to load those copyrighted records into easily distributed .pdf format, and DGAF about copyright claims.

Re:Here's a Sweet Dodge? (1)

tibit (1762298) | more than 2 years ago | (#39576675)

I tried to follow that URL, but it doesn't seem to work.

It was pretty close. A dot was missing before 'com', and the link was to a wrong title, but the search function found the book they suggested: Arrest, Search and Investigation in North Carolina [netsuite.com] . The Cell Phone Technology for Criminal investigations [patctech.com] is a training course; I think you'd have to attend it in person.

warrantless searches (1)

Mongo T. Oaf (2600419) | more than 2 years ago | (#39554189)

I believe anyone can search cellphone records, as long as they don't use the information in court as evidence in court. Am I right or wrong? I would like some info that can be substantiated.

They shouldnt need a warrant. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39554259)

Really now the police wont waste money, time and manpower checking on people without reason to do so. If youre not doing bad shit then it stands to reason the police will want nothing to do with you and youre completely safe.

The more rules, the more stipulations, the more guidelines and time wasted for asking permission on little things means a lot more crimes and a lot more bad people getting away with bad things. Im not saying they should be able to do anything they want but something as invasive as this shouldnt be an issue.

Problem is normal citizens want to limit and condemn police for shit like this but soon as something bad happens to them personally and the police can only show up after the fact and not really do much then those same people will complain about how incompentant the police are.

Police can only react to problems, they only get involved once something bad has already happened. The police should be allowed to have a few things like this that could allow them to be proactive and stop something before it happens.

Not having this restriction if it saved 1 person a month it would be worth it. It would be worth it for even little things like maybe someones daughter cant be contacted or found and tracking her leads them to find her passed out at a party. The parents would know she is ok and hell maybe she wont be sexually abused while unconscious because they found her early enough in the evening.

Besides what are you all afraid of? "Oh no the police will find out I went to the gas station, then blockbuster and then I went to a sex toy shop today!" If you go someplace and afraid of being tracked then turn off your god damn phone, or leave the phone at home or get rid of the damn phone.

Re:They shouldnt need a warrant. (1)

GmExtremacy (2579091) | more than 2 years ago | (#39554721)

Why don't you want the police installing security cameras in every room of your house? What are you hiding?

Re:They shouldnt need a warrant. (1)

Mongo T. Oaf (2600419) | more than 2 years ago | (#39554807)

They might see Mr. Dinky and chuckle.

Re:They shouldnt need a warrant. (1)

NormalVisual (565491) | more than 2 years ago | (#39555633)

The police should be allowed to have a few things like this that could allow them to be proactive and stop something before it happens.

Sure, if they acknowledge and are legally charged with a duty to prevent crime, and can be held legally responsible when they fail to do so, instead of the current situation where Warren v. D.C. [wikipedia.org] absolved them of pretty much any responsibility to do anything. Good luck getting that to happen.

Today is a good day (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39555445)

It's good to see this troll of a non-story link-bait only has 51 comments.

I mean, at some point, the turd has stagnated itself to the point it's indistinguishable from the ground it lies on.

(it's okay to mod insightful)

The biggest threat to freedom (1)

a-zA-Z0-9$_.+!*'(),x (1468865) | more than 2 years ago | (#39556781)

The biggest threat to life and liberty is the State. Israel has killed more civilians than Hamas, the US has killed more civilians than Al-Quaeda.
The US constitution, despite its age, can be a strong limit on state power. But all three branches of government have to have principled people in them who are willing to enforce the constitution, not look the other way like they did during the internment of Japanese-origin Americans or the "rendition" to torture of Canadians and Americans of Arab origin.

ACLU Page Sucks Bananas (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39558585)

It shows a map of all the states and asks you to click on a state. Nothing happens when you mouseover light-colored states ((no color legend provided BTW). In others a pop-up window appears stating "ACLU affiliates filed requests", WTF that means. When you click on such a state then a list of state agencies appears. That's all!

So to find out about all states you must mouseover (and possibly click) on each of 51 states. Stupid.

A simple table would convey the information more completely and with less bandwidth.

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