Tracking Cell Phones and Vehicles: The Legal Context

12.05.11 | 1 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

A new report from the Congressional Research Service explores ongoing legal debates over the tracking of private cell phones and vehicles by law enforcement agencies.

“It is undeniable that… advances in technology threaten to diminish privacy,” the CRS report says.  “Law enforcement’s use of cell phones and GPS devices to track an individual’s movements brings into sharp relief the challenge of reconciling technology, privacy, and law.”

The 22 page CRS report provides a survey of relevant Fourth Amendment law, federal electronic surveillance statutes and case law, pending GPS-vehicle tracking cases, and electronic surveillance legislation that is before Congress.

“The primary debate surrounding cell phone and GPS tracking is not whether they are permitted by statute but rather what legal standard should apply: probable cause, reasonable suspicion, or something less,” the report says.

A copy of the CRS report was obtained by Secrecy News.  See “Governmental Tracking of Cell Phones and Vehicles: The Confluence of Privacy, Technology, and Law,” December 1, 2011.