The House Passed a Cell Phone Privacy Measure Yesterday. Police Say It's "Going to Kill People"

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Digital rights advocates cheered yesterday after the state House passed a measure requiring police to obtain a search warrant before collecting personal cell phone data. Groups as diverse as the ACLU of Texas and the arch-conservative Texas Eagle Forum have expressed concern that current law, which allows law enforcement agencies to freely harvest cell phone location data, was antiquated and a violation of the Fourth Amendment prohibition on unreasonable searches.

"Cell phones communicate location information constantly," as
Electronic Frontier Foundation-Austin vice president Greg Foster has previously explained it. "Now the details of your life - your employer, your hobbies, your relationships, your religion, political meetings you attend - can all be gleaned from customer data held by your phone company. And police don't need a warrant to get it."

Grits for Breakfast's Scott Henson framed the matter somewhat differently:

After all, who guards their privacy more closely than superheroes? Batman, Superman, Spiderman, Captain America - all the great ones employ closely guarded secret identities, not to perpetrate evil but to enable their work for good. One of the items on Batman's utility belt in 2013 surely must be a smart-phone. But we may be certain the Caped Crusader doesn't want his cell-service provider handing out his historical location records. There are some secrets even Commissioner Gordon needn't know, at least without demonstrating probable cause to a judge.

The superhero analogy is a bit tortured, but the point is well taken. Current law was put in place back in the '80s, way before people carried traceable GPS devices in their pockets. An update is long overdue.

But the measure is being fought tooth-and-nail by the Dallas Police Association, among others.

"It's going to kill people," Frederick Frazier, who chairs the group's PAC, said yesterday upon the passage of the privacy measure, according to the Morning News.

The Morning News piece continues:

Current law lets police track cell phones with the burden of reasonable suspicion, which Frazier said allows them to - say - get the cell phone records of the last 10 people who called the dead guy in the ditch and figure out where they were last night.

Or, he said, a girl goes missing, police find out there are 10 sex offenders living next to where she was when she disappeared, so they get their records and find out who was there when she disappeared.

Or using cell phones to track the Kaufman DA killer, or the Boston bomber - all, he said, would be hampered by a bill like this.

Raising the burden to the level of search warrant not only costs time and paperwork, Frazier said, but restricts them from even being able to obtain the records because probable cause doesn't cover the wide net police have to cast sometimes in order to find a suspect.

Nor do the exceptions carved out for life-threatening emergencies and felony fugitives placate Frederick, who insists that investigators' hands will be tied. But lawmakers aren't exactly taking a tool out of law enforcement's tool box. They're simply requiring a judge to look at the evidence to see if that tool should be used. Given the massive amounts of information that can be gleaned from cell phone location data, that hardly seems unreasonable.

Now, on to the Senate.



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65 comments
red.marcy.rand
red.marcy.rand

The cops always parrot this statist line. This law is very sensible and honors the Fourth Amendment.

oakclifftownie
oakclifftownie

Here is a Website that allows anyone to follow Amateur Radios Operators and other folks walking driving on ships or in aircraft who are allowing a Google operation ARPS  to track them ...

http://hr.aprs.fi/moving/

A time waster for sure but an eye opener all the same .Lots of information to be culled from the Airwaves


everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

Raising the burden to the level of search warrant not only costs time and paperwork, Frazier said, but restricts them from even being able to obtain the records because probable cause doesn't cover the wide net police have to cast sometimes in order to find a suspect.

In other words, "we are terrible investigators and we can't catch them unless we are allowed to cheat."

BHObama
BHObama

Texas Eagle Forum "archconserative"......ACLU, no modifier such as archliberal. Bias much Eric?

ozonelarryb
ozonelarryb

What part of 'power corrupts' do you guys not get? This is not a substantive block to a real investigation, only to fishing expeditions.

logic4dallas
logic4dallas

Police are all nazis looking to infringe your rights...until you need them. I always see posts on the Observer blog sites calling police all manner of things, and how all of you hate them...then do us all a favor and put yourself on an opt out list. If you hate them so much, don't bother calling them when you have an emergency, because judging from comments, you don't need them. So between the liberal justice system in Dallas allowing felons to run free and you not calling the big bad police when said felons are murdering you, this problem will work itself out.

Bill Fahle
Bill Fahle

Issuing drivers' licenses is "going to kill people".

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

Simple enough to disable the location services on your phone if you don't like the idea of leaving a virtual trail of breadcrumbs for the po-po.

You'll just have to give up the convenience that that utility provides you. Living with technology is sometimes a trade-off.

Christina Navarro
Christina Navarro

I think there should be exclusions called out such as murder victims, kidnappings, etc.

matt.helm75
matt.helm75

if they have enough reasonable suspicion, they can get a warrant!

ruddski
ruddski

If you've done nothing to harm the State, and are not from FOX, the Tea Party or any other recognized tewwowist organization, you've got nothing to worry about.

ThreeOranges
ThreeOranges

Will it kill more people than the police do?

oakclifftownie
oakclifftownie

From the DMN Story

Current law lets police track cell phones with the burden of reasonable suspicion, which Frazier said allows them to - say - get the cell phone records of the last 10 people who called the dead guy in the ditch and figure out where they were last night. He is dead so it can wait.

Or, he said, a girl goes missing, police find out there are 10 sex offenders living next to where she was when she disappeared, so they get their records and find out who was there when she disappeared. Look up the zip code and see the Sex offenders on DPS SEX offenders web site

Or using cell phones to track the Kaufman DA killer, or the Boston bomber - all, he said, would be hampered by a bill like this. Listen when the DA says that's the guy who did the deed and work the case accordingly .

Raising the burden to the level of search warrant not only costs time and paperwork, Frazier said, but restricts them from even being able to obtain the records because probable cause doesn't cover the wide net police have to cast sometimes in order to find a suspect.Have Judge on Duty to process the warrants just like the have on hand for no refusal weekend.

Almost sorts itself out ?

casiepierce
casiepierce

@everlastingphelps No, as technology advances, so too should our laws. Isn't there a way to turn your GPS device off? Besides, I didn't realize that cell phone ownership was a right...

gregmarcydagama
gregmarcydagama

@BHObama Uh, bro, the ACLU liberal? You must mean when they support causes you don't like? They defend civil liberties for ALL - countless times on behalf of what you probably call conservative. So, let me answer for myself; no bias from Eric; the Texas Eagle Forum is in their own words: 'Texas Eagle Forum's mission is to enable conservative and pro-family men and women to participate in the process of self-government and public policy-making so that America will continue to be a land of individual liberty, respect for family integrity, public and private virtue, and private enterprise.

 
Texas Eagle Forum's achievements prove that citizen-volunteers can affect government policies in Congress, state legislatures, city councils and school boards; elect candidates at every level; and articulate conservative and pro-family policies through the media.

PLEASE HELP us to continue setting a high standard of volunteer participation in the political and legislative process by giving generously to Texas Eagle Forum. Together we can build a better educated, safer, stronger America based on traditional values."

Now, here's the ACLU: "The ACLU is our nation's guardian of liberty, working daily in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties that the Constitution and laws of the United States guarantee everyone in this country.

These rights include:

  • Your First Amendment rights - freedom of speech, association and assembly; freedom of the press, and freedom of religion.
  • Your right to equal protection under the law - protection against unlawful discrimination.
  • Your right to due process - fair treatment by the government whenever the loss of your liberty or property is at stake.
  • Your right to privacy - freedom from unwarranted government intrusion into your personal and private affairs.

The ACLU also works to extend rights to segments of our population that have traditionally been denied their rights, including people of color; women; lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender people; prisoners; and people with disabilities.

If the rights of society's most vulnerable members are denied, everybody's rights are imperiled"

Notice a teeny little difference? ~ / ~ OM

markzero
markzero

@BHObama Everyone already knows that only liberals care about protecting civil liberties. Not many people have heard of the TEF.

casiepierce
casiepierce

@ozonelarryb Hum. I wonder what the family of that gal who was on the phone with 911 as she was being murdered would have to say about this???

alteredjustice
alteredjustice

@logic4dallas Yeah um, give an example. The one time I needed cops for investigating something I had stolen from me (the humorous part is, I knew who did it and it was someone in my complex), they redirected me around and said they couldn't do anything. It was really awful and pathetic. They don't give a damn unless it makes them look good or gets them money, otherwise they don't waste their precious time.

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

@logic4dallas The only reason I ever call the cops is for them to file a report to cover my ass.  I have absolutely no expectation that they will "protect" me from anything.  

If I could get on an "opt out" list and keep the cops completely out of my business (and also not have them beating down my door when I have to shoot the Urban Explorer who let himself into my bedroom window) I would do it in a heartbeat.

ozonelarryb
ozonelarryb

We thank you for your support. King George 3rd, Joseph Stalin, Richard Nixon, Pinochet, pol pot, Kim jong un, and all our friends.

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

@TheCredibleHulk No, it isn't.  They don't use the location services on your phone.  They use triangulation based on the frequent location updates that your phone makes to the cell system (so the system knows which tower to transmit your incoming calls from.)

If your phone is on and has bars, the phone company knows where you are.  The end.

shane072012
shane072012

@matt.helm75 Wow.  So you think mere reasonable suspicion is enough to get a warrant?  I wish you were a judge! 

oakclifftownie
oakclifftownie

@ruddski  "If you've done nothing to harm the State,"  

I am trying to imagine where this idea comes from ?

monstruss
monstruss

@ruddski "Tea Party?" Oh, you mean all of those political groups that popped up in 2009 and tried filing for shit that didn't apply to them? 

gritsforbreakfast1
gritsforbreakfast1

@oakclifftownie Ironically, fwiw, in Kaufman County they actually got a search warrant for cell phone location data and the cell-tower dumps used in Boston aren't covered  by the bill. You're right that every complaint from the police union is either disingenuous or addressed via the listed exceptions to a warrant requirement. Thanks for covering this Eric.

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

Cellphone ownership is as much a right as your right to own anything else. You have that general right, which is why alcohol prohibition required a constitutional amendment. On top of that, you have a fourth amendment right to privacy in it. When the founders referred to "papers", they meant the common method of communication at the time. Computers and email are the modern papers.

So, yes, our laws should advance as technology advances -- to tell morons like you the government needs to MIND IT'S OWN FUCKING BUSINESS and stop treating every citizen like a criminal.

alteredjustice
alteredjustice

@casiepierce They aren't tracking them through GPS. And your babbling about phone ownership makes no sense. They aren't taking away anyone's phones.

casiepierce
casiepierce

@alteredjustice @logic4dallas Good gravy, are you people completely stupid?!?? Just yesterday the UP posted an article about the 911 call operator who was unable to track a citizen's location for nine minutes as she was being murdered! The DPD lamented the fact that it did not have the proper tech to do so!

casiepierce
casiepierce

@ozonelarryb And we thank you Dallas 911 call center for not being able to locate a woman dying while on the phone with the 911 call center for nine minutes!

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

@TheCredibleHulk @ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul  

The rights are not reinterpretted, if anything they are upheld over the advances in technology.  Here again we have an example of the government developing a lame, unsubstantiated argument as to why the rights DO NOT APPLY to a situation that is neither new nor novel nor excluded from the inherent rights of a person.

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

@everlastingphelps @TheCredibleHulk 

Hmmm . . . didn't take triangulation into account. That definitely puts it in trickier territory. I suppose you could ditch the cell-phone altogether and just use pay-phones.

Oh . . . Yeah. Nevermind.

matt.helm75
matt.helm75

@shane072012 let me clarify - enough reasonable suspicion to invoke probable cause.  because what is probable cause but a bunch of reasonable suspicion?

ruddski
ruddski

No, the other guys, the ones we were warned about.

alteredjustice
alteredjustice

@casiepierce Okay tard. It doesn't matter what the author of the article says. Yes, phones are capable of using GPS. No, most people do not run their GPS all day. No, turning off GPS does not necessarily keep you from being located. They can locate you through cell phone towers.

I don't know if the phone companies keep GPS records, but they don't really need to in order to track someone (Speaking of "READING COMPREHENSION," the article talks about phone records. Protip: that doesn't mean GPS). That was why I responded to your question, which quite frankly was really stupid, in a fairly polite manner. If you don't understand the technology then perhaps you shouldn't be giving your opinion on it.

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

@ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul @TheCredibleHulk 

That should be the case that our rights are upheld over technological advances. But to say that our rights are not reinterpreted isn't entirely true - they are certainly being reinterpreted by the DPA & company in this particular case.

They, of course, do not have that right and that is really what is at issue, here.

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