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Judge stands up for commonsense privacy law in cellphone case

Texas judge says warrant required before government can have cellphone location records

By Paul McNamara on Mon, 03/19/12 - 1:52pm.

tower

Bravo to the Texas judge who ruled that if the government wants 60 days of cellphone location records in a criminal investigation it must first obtain a warrant after showing probable cause.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has details here:

"The Supreme Court ruled earlier this year in United States v. Jones that the GPS tracking of a vehicle without a warrant violates the reasonable expectation of privacy guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution. This is a very similar situation," said EFF Staff Attorney Hanni Fakhoury. "People carry their cell phones with them wherever they go, all day long. Records of where we've been can reveal information about our health, our religion, our hobbies, and our politics. As technology advances, these records will become only more detailed and intrusive."

In essence, however, the government had argued that the simple act of traveling from an area covered by one cell tower to an area covered by a different cell tower constitutes a voluntary forfeiture of your right to privacy under what's known as "the third-party doctrine."

That's ridiculous.

And here's what bugs me even more than the blatant wrongheadedness of that argument: The government lawyers making it may have believed that it would be an effective one (they were wrong), but they couldn't possibly have believed that prevailing through its use would be fair, just or in the public interest. They can't possibly be comfortable with the idea that their own personal privacy should be abused so cavalierly by the government that employs them.

Yet they made the argument anyway.

Maybe that's the way lawyers are supposed to work - I don't know what they teach in law school -- but from a public-service standpoint it's nothing short of shameful.

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