Florida requires warrant for cell tower phone data, cont. Part 3

  • On behalf of Mike G Law posted in on Friday, November 21, 2014

That is a very different notion than giving the police cellphone location data from a "stingray" that allows them to track an individual’s whereabouts 24/7 and would make most people slightly uneasy.

The "stingray" device allows police to capture the communication signals from a cellphone and track it, and disturbingly, police have used the information and misled courts as to how they obtain it.

By its ruling, the Florida Supreme Court has helped the cause of privacy rights by ruling that used of this tracking information real-time by police is a search that requires a warrant authorized by a judge.

While only binding in Florida, it does provide clear guidance to other courts that may be faced with such a determination, and means that any U.S. Supreme Court decision on the topic would have to consider the rationale used by the Florida court.

A very important point made by the Florida court was that merely by consenting to providing your location information via your cell phone to the cell tower and the telecom is not consent to all uses of that information by any potential entity, i.e. the police.

You may want to receive weather data or the location of nearby restaurants tied to your location, but your consent to the use of that data does extend beyond such purposes. It hasn’t mattered before, because the technology was too cumbersome to use. With the advent of "stingray type devices," that is no longer true.

If most people understand how a cell system works, they reasonably would expect that such information is used for the commercial operation of the phone system, and not that it has been commandeered by law enforcement to provide an omniscience surveillance system to track their every movement.

Wired.com, "Cops Need a Warrant to Grab Your Cell Tower Data, Florida Court Rules," Kim Zetter, October 17, 2104


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