For Immediate Release
Government Faces New Warrantless Surveillance Battle After Losing Landmark GPS Tracking Case
Defendant Pushes to Exclude Cell Phone Location Data Obtained Without a Warrant
SAN FRANCISCO - A federal district court is poised to determine whether the government can use cell phone data obtained without a warrant to establish an individual's location. In an amicus brief filed Monday, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) argue that this form of surveillance is just as unconstitutional as the warrantless GPS tracking the U.S. Supreme Court already shot down in this case.
"Location data is extraordinarily sensitive. It can reveal where you worship, where your family and friends live, what sort of doctors you visit, and what meetings and activities you attend," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Marcia Hofmann. "Whether this information is collected by a GPS device or a mobile phone company, the government should only be able to get it with a warrant based on probable cause that's approved by a judge."
In U.S. v. Jones, FBI agents planted a GPS device on a car and then tracked its position every ten seconds for 28 days without a valid search warrant. In a landmark decision earlier this year, the Supreme Court ruled that this violated the Fourth Amendment. The case is now back in the trial court, where Jones is moving to suppress six months of cell phone location data that government investigators obtained – yet again – without a warrant. In Monday's brief, EFF and CDT argue that the Fourth Amendment doesn't allow government investigators to collect cell phone data to track users' locations over a prolonged period of time without a warrant. This right isn't defeated even if cell phone users disclose their locations to service providers when their phones connect to a cell phone tower.
"As Justice Sonia Sotomayor said in the Jones GPS Supreme Court decision, the idea that privacy rights are forfeited simply by giving them to a third party is 'ill-suited to the digital age,'" said EFF Staff Attorney Hanni Fakhoury. "If the government gets its way here, it could jeopardize any expectation of privacy we have in our private movements."
For the full amicus brief in U.S. v. Jones:
This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.
Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.
EFF is the leading civil liberties group defending your rights in the digital world. EFF fights for freedom primarily in the courts, bringing and defending lawsuits even when that means taking on the US government or large corporations.