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Cell Phone Tracking Wednesday, 14 December 2005

Posted by R Garfield in Views On News.
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Big story in the New York Times (and likely elsewhere as well) is that cell phones are being used by law enforcement for tracking purposes. Honestly, ever since the famous OJ Simpson car chase, I would have thought that everyone would have figured out that the tracking technology is getting better all the time.

Technology does tend towards improvement, the twin forces of entropy and Microsoft notwithstanding.

When I got my current cell phone, it was made perfectly clear GPS tracking – for law enforcement/ems, not for me – was a part of the package. I regarded it as a plus; most of my worry is that there won’t be a usable signal if that GPS capability ever has to be utilized

The trouble comes about not because of the capability of the phones to be used for tracking. I’m sure that I’m not the only person who considers the capability a positive one.
No, the trouble comes about because LEA have to meet a much lower standard than probable cause in order to track you via the cell phone. There’s also the fact, that most people aren’t aware of, that GPS aside, the phone is constant communication with the tower whether you’re talking on it or not. I believe the article mentioned that wireless carriers could pinpoint their customers’ exact location to within 300 yards.

Side note: If I’m going to continue blogging, I’m going to have to start snagging those initial referers … especially because I’m too durned lazy to go back and google up the information a second time. Besides, inspired readers may well want to read those original entries for themselves.

Law enforcement is ticked because judges (soon to be labeled activist?) are starting to deny applications for surveillance via phone. Personally, I’m relieved. I can understand the asset to law enforcement this provides. And in the case of clear criminal intent, or even reasonable certainty of criminal intent, I’m all for it.

However, the way the article is written makes it sound more as if the standard has been, “hey, Judge Hangemhigh, this guy might do something bad  in the next 30 years or so. Let’s do a big brother number on him.”

Big Brother doesn’t have to run surveillance equipment into your home: you’re carrying it around for him in your pocket.

I want LEA to be able to do this; I also want them to meet some standard higher than ‘because we want to.’

Some people may say, but these are presumed criminals we’re talking about. What’s the big deal if they’re being spyed on? Aside from the fact that someone is supposed to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, the quote below sums up my feelings:

“When the Nazis came for Gypsies, I did not speak up, for I was not a Gypsy; when they came for Jews, I did not speak up, for I was not a Jew; when they came for homosexuals, I did not speak up, for I was not a homosexual; and when they came for me, there was no one left to speak up for me.”

Martin Neimmeller, German Pastor
and Concentration Camp Prisoner

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Comments»

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