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ACLU Demands Mobile-Phone Data from LE Agencies In 31 States

August 03, 2011  | 

Map: ACLU.

Thirty-four ACLU affiliates in 31 states filed 379 public records requests in 31 states around the nation on Wednesday, demanding information about how law enforcement agencies use mobile-phone location information.

Claiming to "lift the veil on this secrecy," the American Civil Liberties Union said it wants data about when the location information is sought and under what standards.

"While we believe that law enforcement should always be required to obtain a warrant based on probable cause to access cell-phone location information, the scary truth is that they don't always obtain said warrant, and courts don't always insist that they do," according to a statement from the group.

The ACLU claims that mobile devices continuously send out signals searching for the nearest cell tower to ensure calls go through, and cellular providers can estimate a user's location with ever-improving accuracy based on their proximity to nearby towers. Each cellular provider determines the amount of time they store this information, and in how much detailm according to the ACLU.

The data can be used by law enforcement agencies to track people's movements.

FBI agents investigating a series of bank robberies collected the records of every cell phone that was near each bank when it was robbed in 2008, reports CNET.

The public-records requests seek information about whether law enforcement agents demonstrate probable cause and obtain a warrant to access cell phone location data; statistics on how frequently law enforcement agencies obtain cell phone location data; how much money law enforcement agencies spend tracking cell phones; and other policies and procedures used for acquiring location data.

The ACLU's national chapter posted an interactive map that allows users to view the requests from each state.

Comments (3)

Displaying 1 - 3 of 3

Steve in LA @ 8/4/2011 6:02 PM

ACLU= All Communists/Leftists United

DaveSAM25G @ 8/4/2011 8:47 PM

I realize this is fine line but when ACLU is involved there are agenda's attached most times...Geeze so does facebook-users of internet (IP addresses) -ATM's- The whole reason for GPS chips E911 was to help track people in emergencies, find the lost etc...Had a lady die in a truck in NM because she was kidnapped and they could not get a fix on signal before her phone battery...died...he we go again with the expectation of privacy in all issues...

Steve @ 8/5/2011 10:24 AM

"Mobile devices continuously send out signals searching for the nearest cell tower to ensure calls go through[]"

This is a factually-inaccurate and technologically-false statement.

The reason batteries last so long now is because phones generally do not contact the cellular infrastructure except to update a geographic change of major markets (switches).

Rather, when a device remains within the same switch, they simply wake up every few second to LISTEN for a "page" from every tower in the switch (on hard-wired electricity) notifying the device that there is an incoming call or electronic message qued for delivery.

Only when the device transmits a response "page response" does the wire or electronic communication get routed through the switch and specific cell site that received the page response form the device.


These are business records of a transaction and they belong to the wireless provide and not the subscriber.

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