Court Says Past Travels Not Private

Cops don't need probable cause to grab old cell records
By Jonas Oransky,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 26, 2007 3:36 PM CDT
Court Says Past Travels Not Private
USA. New York City. 2003. Woman speaking on cell phone on Madison Avenue. (NYC30162)   (Magnum Photos)

A federal court has ruled that one’s historic whereabouts are not protected by the Fourth Amendment, and that the government doesn't need to show probable cause to access old cell phone records. Authorities only have to claim the information is “relevant to an ongoing investigation,” Computerworld reports, a reversal of an earlier judge’s finding.

Cell phone companies can identify an individual’s movements for investigators by tracking their phone's connections with specific cell towers; courts have previously found that they can reveal real-time cell information only with probable cause. Last week’s decision says past location data is unprotected because it doesn’t show current or future whereabouts. An angered privacy advocate noted most people don’t know they’ve created a record. (More cell phones stories.)

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