Even though police are tapping into the locations of mobile phones thousands of times a year, the legal ground rules remain unclear, and federal privacy laws written a generation ago are ambiguous at best. On Friday, the first federal appeals court to consider the topic will hear oral arguments (PDF) in a case that could establish new standards for locating wireless devices.
In that case, the (Bush) administration has argued that warrantless tracking is permitted because Americans enjoy no "reasonable expectation of privacy" in their--or at least their cell phones'--whereabouts. U.S. Department of Justice lawyers say that "a customer's Fourth Amendment rights are not violated when the phone company reveals to the government its own records" that show where a mobile device placed and received calls.
Those claims have alarmed the ACLU and other civil liberties groups, which have opposed the Justice Department's request and plan to tell the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia that Americans' privacy deserves more protection and judicial oversight than what the administration has proposed.
"This is a critical question for privacy in the 21st century," says Kevin Bankston, an attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation who will be arguing on Friday. "If the courts do side with the government, that means that everywhere we go, in the real world and online, will be an open book to the government unprotected by the Fourth Amendment."
We audibly groaned when we read this news piece. Does this mean we’re going to have to do another one of those posts?
We enjoy doing them but we’re thinking that after a time, the novelty sort of wears off.
Please let us know what you think because we’re kind of 50/50 at this point. Part of us thinks it’s important to keep pointing out the hollow sophistry of Hope and Change for record keeping purposes but part of us also thinks that we’ve pretty well established how faithfully the Obama administration has cleaved to the Bush playbook. After all, with respect to this, isn’t the science settled?
Feel free to chime in. Thanks.