Wednesday, September 26, 2012

New Cell Phone Cases - The Location Tracking Mess Continues

Earlier this year, this blog reported on United States v. Jones.  In that case, the Supreme Court threw out the conviction of Washington D.C. drug kingpin, Antoine Jones, on the basis the FBI had failed to obtain a warrant before attaching a GPS tracking device to Mr. Jones's car. Therefore, the defendant's Fourth Amendment rights protecting him from unreasonable search and seizure had been violated, and the conviction was thrown out. Since that ruling, there have been several related developments, with two major publications recently commenting on the confused state of affairs that has been created by the multiple ways there are to track an individual.

First, in a case that had many components of United States v. Jones, in the middle of August, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled that the cell phone location information of a drug smuggler was admissible in court. Consequently, three days worth of data showing his whereabouts in an RV loaded with marijuana could be used against him. More, below: 

When GPS Tracking Violates Privacy Rights (New York Times, September 22, 2012)

Second, came comment on the attempt by the Federal government to haul Mr. Jones back into court and try him based on location data available from his cell phone records, instead of the location data of the GPS tracking device that had been ruled inadmissible. For more, read below:

Comment: Unfortunately, the muddled state of affairs is the direct result of laws not keeping up with technology.  As a consequence, the courts are being forced to do the jobs of legislators. Like many parts of Geospatial Revolution, awareness and engagement is needed from leaders on all levels, or this situation is only going to get worse.  

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