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Warrantless Cellphone Tracking Upheld

August 01, 2013  | 

In a significant victory for law enforcement, a federal appeals court on Tuesday said that government authorities could extract historical location data directly from telecommunications carriers without a search warrant.

The closely watched case, in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, is the first ruling that squarely addresses the constitutionality of warrantless searches of historical location data stored by cellphone service providers. Ruling 2 to 1, the court said a warrantless search was "not per se unconstitutional" because location data was "clearly a business record" and therefore not protected by the Fourth Amendment.

The ruling is likely to intensify legislative efforts, already bubbling in Congress and in the states, to consider measures to require warrants based on probable cause to obtain cellphone location data.

Read the full New York Times story.

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