Obama admin told to stop tracking cell phones without a warrant

A federal appeals court has rejected a claim by the Obama administration that it is “never required” to obtain a court order before accessing cell-site information retained by mobile carriers.

Fortunately, the ruling by the 3rd US Circuit Court of Appeals is only one of many recent legal decisions bolstering the privacy of Americans in a brave new digital age.

“This case concerns historical cell-site location information, which carriers usually retain for about 18 months,” explained Wired’s David Kravets.

“The data identifies the cell tower the customer was connected to at the beginning of a call and at the end of the call – and is often used in criminal prosecutions and investigations.”

Unsurprisingly, the Obama administration responded to the ruling by asking the appellate court to reconsider its position – claiming that prosecutors across the country use the statute in criminal investigations to gather a “wide range” of evidence.

The request was declined. 

It should be noted that the administration has also asked the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit to overturn a previous ruling which requires a warrant before a suspect’s vehicle is fitted with a GPS device. 

In an official statement to the court, the administration declared that Americans should expect no privacy “in the totality of his or her movements in public places.”

The court has yet to return a ruling on the latter issue.