Obama DOJ Asks Court to Okay Seizure of Cell Phone Location Data Without Probable Cause
The Obama Justice Department, in briefs filed by Bush holdover U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan (the one who prosecuted Tommy Chong and successfully sought a prison term for his shipping drug paraphernalia through the mail, and the one who prosecuted a 56 year old recluse for writing obscenity, and the one who has said Obama should let her stay on the job after his election) has taken the position that your whereabouts, as determined from your cell phone through records kept by your cell phone provider, is not protected by the Fourth Amendment.
There has been a split among federal district courts on this. Most say that before the Government can request cell phone providers to turn over cell site locator records -- which show where you are when on the phone by showing where your phone is when it is turned on -- they must submit an affidavit showing probable cause for the request. That's because unlike a pen register, which only shows numbers dialed from the phone, or a trap and trace, which shows numbers calling the phone, cell site tower records show the location of the the phone when being used. That makes it like a tracking device and people have an expectation of privacy in their whereabouts.
The first case to hit the federal appellate courts on the issue is one from the Western District of Pennsylvania -- thus the involvement of AUSA Mary Beth Buchanan. [More...]
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