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. He is a legal analyst for 60 Minutes and CBS Radio News, and a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice.

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