Can Police Ping A Cell Phone Without A Warrant?
Are you the type of person who believes in conspiracy theories? That the government knew about the JFK assassination or that fluoride is in our water systems to keep people mellow? Well if you are one of those types then you certainly will not like how police can now track your phone using the GPS tracking system embedded in every mobile phone device and how agencies such as the FBI have been routinely tracking people using GPS and other controversial methods such as stingray technology.
Yes, police have the ability to track your mobile phone, locate your exact position and even reconfigure certain characteristics of the mobile phone you use through remote airtime access. Agencies such as the FBI are engaging in this new-age form of spying on people every single day, but the scary part is that they are doing so without a warrant or establishment of probable cause! This has many people darn right pissed because they feel this form of mobile tracking action can essentially be conducted with judicial oversight. And they are correct!
Can Police Track Phone Calls
Most people have never heard of “stingray” technology, but that does not stop government and police agencies from using it to spy on citizens. Essentially what “Stingray” refers to is a secretive technology that mimics cellular towers to confuse mobile phones in proximity to the device. What happens is that the mobile phone is tricked to think the stingray device is a legitimate cell tower and therefore connects to the spy device. Once connected to the stingray, police can then track call history, identify who is calling into the mobile device, monitor conversation, pinpoint the location of an individual, and more. Stingray technology essentially takes domestic wiretapping to a whole new advanced and terrifying level of privacy invasion, and that is why everyone should hold some concern.
One of the first concerns is the most obvious one which is that it’s not only the bad guy whose mobile phone is connecting to the stingray but also every other individual with a mobile phone in the region. That means the data from air cards, mobile phones, and wireless systems of innocent people doing nothing but going along their everyday lives are also being honed in on and monitored. Even if government agencies state they delete information not relevant to the case they are investigating nobody knows for sure if that is the truth. And certainly, nobody is conducting transparent oversight of the domestic spying. This means citizens abiding by the laws could fall victim to privacy invasion by the government.
Two organizations, the ACLU and EFF, have moved forward with legal paperwork stating investigations using stingray technology were essentially illegal. The reason is that authorities using the stingray technology did so without first explaining in detail to the courts how they would use stingray devices. Both organizations feel that the government and police intentionally misled the oversight authority knowing that if the truth was revealed the courts may be apprehensive to greenlight any such activity.
Tracking A Cell Phone Location
Using Cellular Technology To Locate Criminals
For years, police departments and government agencies have called upon a vast array of technological gadgets and gizmos to uncover criminal activity. These items have included hidden cameras, wiretaps, GPS tracking systems, and more. However, some forms of surveillance technology have been met with a high level of criticism, and some applications have been so controversial that they had to be evaluated by the high courts. This was the case of police using tracker devices without warrants to track down where potential criminal suspects would travel in their personal automobiles. Although the proper protocol for police use of GPS monitoring systems is now in place, the law enforcement use of cellular towers to determine locational data of potential suspects is still a very large concern for privacy advocates, police departments, and attorneys everywhere.
The use of GPS vehicle tracker systems without a warrant was common practice for years among police agencies, even though some felt it was an invasion of personal privacy. However, the Supreme Court would eventually rule that police departments must acquire a warrant before placing any GPS monitoring device on an automobile. Unfortunately for prosecutors in Washington D.C., this significant ruling led to key evidence against a nightclub owner named Antoine Jones involved in a large cocaine trafficking enterprise being thrown out. Although it would initially appear as though a criminal found a legal loophole to get away with his criminal endeavors, it now appears police and prosecutors involved in this case will instead try and keep the conviction intact by using data obtained from cellular triangulation and cell phone records.
Cell phones are incredible pieces of technology that allow people to place and receive phone calls, check emails, connect with friends through social networking, and more, but these devices are also data farms that even store information regards to locational data. Basically, this means cell phones are storing every place a person goes, how long they were at specific locations, and more. This is done through the use of the GPS monitoring chip manufactured in every mobile phone and cell tower.
“Every so often a court case pushes the highest courts to decide on the appropriate use of cutting edge technology many police departments and government agencies use to gain the upper hand on criminal activities”, a GPS fleet tracking expert for Tracking System Direct stated. “However, if federal prosecutors can determine through cellular locational records that the controversial case regarding Antoine Jones was in the places GPS devices earlier showed him being at then the case could potentially reach the Supreme Court again. Defense attorneys would once again discuss the probable cause, but since no legislation prohibits police from accessing locational data from cellular phones it could fall upon the judgment of the courts once again to decide.”
Warrantless Searches Mobile Phones
Society is more connected now than ever before, but does that mean police should be allowed access to historical locational data from cell phones to make arrests or build evidence?
Should legislators or courts mandate police enforcement acquire a warrant before accessing any locational data gathered from cell phones?
Do you have concerns about government agencies using stingray devices to acquire information from mobile phone systems or how they utilize tracking location by cell phone technology?
Matthew is a freelance writer who is passionate about technology, music, photography, and decentralized finance.