Sunday, September 14, 2008

FEDERAL COURT: CELL PHONES COVERED BY FOURTH AMENDMENT

Electronic Frontier Foundation - In an unprecedented victory for cell phone privacy, a federal court has affirmed that cell phone location information stored by a mobile phone provider is protected by the Fourth Amendment and that the government must obtain a warrant based on probable cause before seizing such records.

The Department of Justice had asked the federal court in the Western District of Pennsylvania to overturn a magistrate judge's decision requiring the government to obtain a warrant for stored location data, arguing that the government could obtain such information without probable cause. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, at the invitation of the court, filed a friend-of-the-court brief opposing the government's appeal and arguing that the magistrate was correct to require a warrant. The court agreed with EFF and issued an order affirming the magistrate's decision.

EFF has successfully argued before other courts that the government needs a warrant before it can track a cell phone's location in real-time. However, this is the first known case where a court has found that the government must also obtain a warrant when obtaining stored records about a cell phone's location from the mobile phone provider.

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