About | Contact | SUBMIT PRESS | Advertise | FAQ
Newsletters | Twitter |
Software | Webmaps | Submit Press | Utilities | Geo BIZ | iOS | Social Media | LBS | Webinars | LiDAR | Cloud  

Top Geo News
Put Your News here! 

UN recognition for disaster resilience apps

Got news? TELL US...
submit press to GISuser

Social Connect

GISuser Sponsor

Recent Site Additions
GISuser Sponsor

GISuser Videos

See also SpatialVideos Youtube

GISuser Sponsor

Home arrow News arrow iPhone, iPad and iOS arrow Ruling Fuels Debate On Warrantless Cell Phone Tracking, Attorney Says     

post a GIS job * THE NEW GEOJOBS.BIZ!!! *  NEW CAREERS at Esri
See THOUSANDS of jobs on GeoJobs.Biz
Submit News/tips to press @gisuser.com
Ruling Fuels Debate On Warrantless Cell Phone Tracking, Attorney Says PDF Print E-mail
GIS News - iPhone, iPad and iOS
Written by LeClairRyan   
20 September 2011
Federal court sides with ACLU, but unresolved questions abound, says LeClairRyan's Kevin D. Pomfret

RICHMOND, VA. (9/20/11) - On TV crime dramas, police officers keep tabs on suspected criminals by sitting in unmarked cars with some doughnuts, coffee and a pair of binoculars. In today's reality, however, law enforcement agents increasingly are tracking suspects by zeroing in on their cell phone records without a warrant. And as a federal appeals court ruling handed down Sept. 6 amply illustrates, this practice highlights unresolved questions about personal privacy in the era of location-based devices, said LeClairRyan attorney Kevin D. Pomfret, a leading advisor in the rapidly developing fields of spatial law and geospatial technology.

"As law enforcement agencies make use of location-based data from cell phones and various other commercially available devices, what policies and procedures should they follow?" asked Pomfret, a Richmond-based partner in LeClairRyan and head of the national law firm's Spatial Law Practice Team. "This issue is of critical importance to companies that collect geolocation data. They need to know what obligations they have under the law to disclose the location of their customers to law enforcement."

In the Sept. 6 decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Washington, D.C. Circuit ruled that the Department of Justice must disclose the names and docket numbers of cases in which it won a conviction or guilty plea by making use of warrantless tracking. In the four-year-old dispute, the American Civil Liberties Union had originally filed a Freedom of Information Act request seeking the policies and procedures used by the DOJ in obtaining such data. When the DOJ refused to comply with the request, the ACLU sued in federal court.

In upholding the ACLU's demands, the three-judge panel noted that the use of location-based data by law enforcement was of substantial public interest. Greater disclosure, the court said, would enhance the debate by clarifying the scope and effectiveness of cell phone tracking as a law enforcement tool. For its part, the ACLU hailed the decision as "a significant victory in our battle to ensure that cell phones don't become Big Brother tracking devices."

Ironically, the Department of Justice has asserted that disclosure of information about the data collected could, in and of itself, be seen as a threat to privacy, said Pomfret, who also serves as executive director of the Centre for Spatial Law and Policy. "Sensitive information could potentially be gleaned from this data," he said. "For example, those who had been convicted of a crime based upon the warrantless tracking might not want their names to be made more widely available."

Nonetheless, Pomfret said, the ruling does mean that more information about policies and procedures on warrantless tracking will be available. This is important because everyone in the process--law enforcement, businesses, attorneys--needs clarity on this issue. "Some magistrates have said law enforcement agencies must obtain a warrant before they can require cell phone companies to turn over location-based information," the attorney said. "Others have ruled that a warrant isn't necessary, based on a different interpretations of the Electronic Communications Protection Act, which is even now being revised in Congress in an attempt to reflect some of today's new realities."

Meanwhile, policymakers and other experts continue to discuss related privacy concerns. "For example, an important question is whether citizens have the same reasonable expectation of privacy with respect to historical location data as they do with real-time location data," Pomfret said. Another important issue is how long companies need to store the information they collect. "Law enforcement would like this information to be stored for long periods of time," Pomfret explained, "but companies are worried about more practical issues such as the cost of storage and securing the information."

About LeClairRyan
As a trusted advisor, LeClairRyan provides business counsel and client representation in corporate law and litigation. In this role, the firm applies its knowledge, insight and skill to help clients achieve their business objectives while managing and minimizing their legal risks, difficulties and expenses.  With offices in California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington, D.C., the firm has approximately 350 attorneys representing a wide variety of clients throughout the nation.  For more information about LeClairRyan, visit www.leclairryan.com.

< Prev   Next >

 Did you enjoy this article/news and want to stay informed? 
Click to subscribe to the 2X A Week GISuser Today E-Newsletter

Submit Your GIS/Geo News/PR

blog comments powered by Disqus
Geo EDU Tip
To GISP or Not? What Does It Mean To You? 
HOT Devices
Video - Trimble Positions and the Geo Explorer 6000 XH
Social Media Tips
10 Map Services Your Business MUST Be Listed in
Featured Events
  • Trimble Dimmensions - Trimble Dimensions User Conference is the premier event of the year for professionals wishing to stay on top of the most current information on a wide range of technologies. Nov 3-5, Las Vegas, NV.
  • InterGeo 2014 - INTERGEO is the world's leading conference trade fair for geodesy, geoinformation and land management. Oct 7-9, 2014, Berlin

 List Your Event Here 

THE GISuser Newsletter

See Recent edition

subscribe GISuser

We won't share your address!

Popular Stuff!

GISuser Site Sponsor

Partner Sites

lidar news



geojobs Geo jobs


A Spatial Media LLC property

Spatial Media, LLC ©2003 - 2013 All rights reserved / Privacy Statement