Requiring Warrants for Location-Tracking

Last month, I reported that the Electronic Frontier Foundation and American Civil Liberties Union had submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to find out under what conditions the government uses location data from cell phones (such as tower triangulation and GPS). Now, the groups (along with the Center for Democracy and Technology) are filing an amicus brief to a federal appeals court arguing that a warrant should be required to get the data.

The brief is right. Location information should be protected under the Fourth Amendment, which states that:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

A person’s cell phone is the modern-day equivalent of her “papers and effects” – and information about where her phone is at any particular moment is information that should be secure to her and anyone she shares it with.