Cell Phone Tracking: The Most Important Case You've Never Heard Of

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Down the path Friday morning comes a case as important as it has been underreported.

The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear argument from federal lawyers seeking legal authority for the police to demand cell phone location data without a showing of probable cause to a judge or magistrate. The case, many lawyers feel, has the potential to be "one of most important privacy rights battles of the modern era." It almost surely will end up before the United States Supreme Court and leads in the clubhouse for ruling of the year next term. It likely will determine the rights and liberties of hundreds of millions of cell phone users in the United States.

Here is the magistrate judge's written order requiring probable cause to be met. Here is a friend-of-the-court brief filed by the ACLU, the EFF and the CDT in support of the judge's interpretation of the law. The Obama administration has argued fiercely that the information sought is "non-content" data which warrants less protection for individuals (or corporations) asserting privacy rights. Keep an eye on this one--we should have a ruling in a few months and then the ol' dance on up to the Justices.

 

 

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Andrew Cohen is a contributing editor at The Atlantic, 60 Minutes' first-ever legal analyst, and a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice. He is also chief analyst for CBS Radio News and has won a Murrow Award as one of the nation's leading legal journalists. More

Cohen is the winner of the American Bar Association’s 2012 Silver Gavel Award for his Atlantic commentary about the death penalty in America and the winner of the Humane Society’s 2012 Genesis Award for his coverage of the plight of America’s wild horses. A racehorse owner and breeder, Cohen also is a two-time winner of both the John Hervey and O’Brien Awards for distinguished commentary about horse racing.

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