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Privacy Law

Local Police Increasingly Use Cellphone Tracking, Sometimes Without a Warrant

Posted Apr 2, 2012 7:41 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union show local police are increasingly using a tool pioneered by federal authorities: cellphone tracking.

The documents chronicling phone tracking by 205 police departments show that some claim broad discretion to use the surveillance without a warrant, the New York Times reports. The tracking “is in much wider use—with far looser safeguards—than officials have previously acknowledged,” the story says.

The tracking is used to get records and locations of users. While some departments get tracking information without warrants, there is no indication that police are obtaining wiretaps that allow them to listen to phone calls without a warrant.

Cellphone companies are profiting from local police interest. “The practice has become big business for cellphone companies,” the story says, “with a handful of carriers marketing a catalog of ‘surveillance fees’ to police departments to determine a suspect’s location, trace phone calls and texts or provide other services.”

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