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Appeals Court Rules Against Justice Dept. in Cellphone Tracking Case

 By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The D.C. Appeals Court ruled against the Justice Department Wednesday, saying it must publicly disclose secret information about how and when the government gathers and uses cell phone location data to track certain criminal suspects, CNN reported.

“The disclosure sought by the plaintiffs would inform this ongoing public policy discussion by shedding light on the scope and effectiveness of cell phone tracking as a law enforcement tool,” a three-judge panels said in a 35-page ruling, according to CNN. “It would, for example, provide information about the kinds of crimes the government uses cell phone tracking data to investigate.”

The court ruled that the public interest outweighed the government’s privacy claim in what amounted to a warrantless wiretap.

CNN reported that the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit demanding the release of info after initially requesting the information under the Freedom of Information Act. The ACLU asked for court docket information on current and past cases in which the feds tracked people using mobile location data. It also wanted to know about the government’s policies, procedures and practices when using the tracking technology.

The BLT: Blot of the LegalTimes, reported that a lawyer for the ACLU, Catherine Crump, who argued in the D.C. Circuit, said in an e-mail: “Americans have a strong interest in understanding when and how our cell phones are being converted into tracking beacons by the government without a warrant, which apparently has become a common practice. Tracking someone’s location 24 hours a day for days on end can reveal very private personal information, and the government should not be able to do it without a strong suspicion that it will turn up evidence of a crime.”

A Justice Department spokesman said the department was reviewing the case, according to the LegalTimes blog.

 


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