Bill Allowing Cell Phone Tracking Sans Warrant in Motion
The Maryland House Judiciary Committee has convened hearings to consider a bill that would allow the police to track mobile devices without a warrant.
Critics say House Bill 377 lowers the requisite “probable cause” standard for obtaining cellphone location data and could set precedent for similar intrusive legislation. The American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland testified at the hearing, saying that while the bill expands the surveillance capabilities of law enforcers, it can deny individuals’ Fourth Amendment right to privacy.
Law enforcement officials back the bill, saying that it could help police track whereabouts of an abducted child or a missing person. They insist the bill is not invasive as it only sets a uniform standard across Maryland for obtaining location information of individuals involved in an investigation.
Mobile phones register their location with their networks dozens of times a day, so carriers amass a vast quantity of location data of their customers. In 2011 alone, networks received more than 1.3 million actual requests for subscriber information from law enforcement agencies.
In January 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court, in US vs. Jones, declared unconstitutional to attach a GPS device to a vehicle or perform similar tracking procedures without a warrant.
Law enforcement officials also clarify that the legislation won’t allow them to attach a device to a car but instead they’ll only get records from a third-party service provider.