May It Please The Court

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Quote of the Day - Relying on the government to protect your privacy is like asking a Peeping Tom to install your window blinds. - John Perry Barlow
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GPS May Stand For Government Positioning System (Of You)

If you're in New York, then police there can track your whereabouts using your cell phone without a showing of probable cause, according to a federal judge.  The Drug Enforcement Agency applied for and received permission from Manhattan U.S. District Court Judge Lewis Kaplan to track what apparently are drug smugglers.  MIPTC isn't licensed in New York, but the DEA used two federal statutes - the USA Patriot Act and the Stored Communications Act - as the basis for its application, and those statutes are equally applicable here. 

It just doesn't seem right, however, that the DEA received this permission without a showing of probable cause to conduct the surveillance.  Judge Kaplan required something called "reasonable grounds" to believe the contents of the subscriber's communications are "relevant and material" to an ongoing criminal investigation. 

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for tracking possible terrorists or for that matter drug smugglers, but there is that one little thing called the Constitution, which requires a system of checks and balances.  Without a showing of probable cause, there's neither a check or a balance.  I don't remember reading the words "reasonable grounds" in the Constitution. 

There is some disagreement among federal judges whether the DEA or any other governmental agency can conduct this type of surveillance.  A February 2006 opinion in the same court denied the government's application.   Another judge in Texas also denied a similar request.

Seems like we're going to need a Circuit Court of Appeals ruling to find out what either level of review is required before the government can trace you and me or whether they can trace us at all. 

Meanwhile, if you don't want to be traced, then turn off your GPS feature

Posted by J. Craig Williams on Saturday, November 18, 2006 at 18:45 Comments (0)


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