Friday, November 23, 2007

Cell phone surveillance

By Libby

No one could deny that technological advances in communcations have diminished our privacy and in many cases we've given it up willing for perceived safety. For instance, we buy GPS for our cars in case of accidents and breakdowns and subscribe to cell phone services that allow us to track the location of our children in real time, effectively paying private entities to invade our privacy. Nonetheless, under the rule of law, we have a reasonable expectation that this information won't be unneccessarily shared with third parties, including our government.

Unfortunately, in the continuing chipping away at our Fourth Amendment rights, our law enforcement agencies are obtaining this information without having to meet the age old standard of probable cause. In fact some cell phone providers give it up willingly without even the bother of a warrant obtained under the lower standard of mere stated suspicion of a crime. Worse yet, no one tracks how many of these requests are granted and there's no Congressional oversight over the practice.

Nobody would argue that law enforcement shouldn't be allowed to use advanced technology to more ably pursue those who endanger society, but as we've seen time and time again, our LEOs make mistakes and all too often the innocent fall victim to criminal investigations gone awry. Probable cause criteria has served us well for many generations, ensuring our safety while securing our right to be free of unreasonable searches. Congress should act immediately to ensure that criteria is enforced when such requests are made.

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