Federal Judge: Your Location is No More Private Than the Color of Your Car

A court of appeals has ruled that the cops can legally trace the location of your cell phone on public roads — no warrant required. Can you say Big Brother?

Last January, the US Supreme Court ruled that the police must obtain a warrant before secretly attaching a GPS tracking device to your car, at least for any length of time. The decision in Jones v. United States was heralded as a small victory for those of us who like our gadgets but love our privacy even more. Yesterday, the US Circuit Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit failed to uphold the same kind of privacy protection for cell phones. In United States v. Skinner it ruled that because we all know cell phones have GPS transponders that can broadcast our locations at any time, we have no reasonable expectation of privacy when we carry them.

The majority opinion by Judge John Rogers is more than a bit disturbing, however. He wrote: There is no Fourth Amendment violation because Skinner did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the data given off by his voluntarily procured pay-as-you-go cell phone. If a tool used to transport contraband gives off a signal that can be tracked for location, certainly the police can track the signal…. It follows that Skinner had no expectation of privacy in the context of this case, just as the driver of a getaway car has no expectation of privacy in the particular combination of colors of the car’s paint.

Original Article Here


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