Why Doesn’t the Police Seek Warrants before Tracking Cell Phone Devices?
The tracking of cell phone use has always been the norm for law enforcement departments as far as criminal investigations are concerned. However, news that police departments are employing such an approach by breaching an individual’s privacy is something certainly raising eyebrows.
The internet, once a luxury, is now a necessity to keep pace with never-ending paradigm shifts the world experiences on a regular basis. However, in present day and age, the prevalence of the internet has reached a point where telecommunication companies are also serving as wireless internet providers. This has brought all the convenience to mobile phone owners that they can ask for.
Sadly, the dominance of the internet and the inclination towards going online are proving to be an onset for a variety of criminal activities with reports that continue to climb.
The myriad of law enforcement agencies are observing a steep rise in crimes employing cell phones given the ease of communication they have established for everyone, criminals included.
The recent controversy brewing surrounds the claims that many of the agencies responsible for maintaining law and order track cell phone usage without providing any warrants. Out of the plethora of agencies that shoulder the responsibility of enforcing law in the country, only a minimal number is reported to have offered warrants approved by the court before tracking anyone’s cell phone.
In most of the cases, it was found that police only provided subpoenas from prosecutors before they hire the law enforcement agency’s services to track mobile phones. Equivalent to invading someone’s privacy, many believe that the agencies are only limiting civil liberties by not asking for any warrants.
Tracking mobile phones without bringing it to the person’s knowledge is more like disturbing one’s personal space. This way anyone can find out who a person is and can get hands on confidential information about the people they value.
Since the information at stake is valuable, it is the responsibility of the government to keep the agencies from indulging in such an invasive practice as it is supposed to safeguard civil rights.
During research, local police stations confessed to have used cell phones as an effective surveillance tool with thousands of requests in log to spy on individuals for both routine and urgent investigations.
What further comes as a shock is that imprudent tracking of mobile phones continues with police being the least bothered about the legal and constitutional complications that are most likely to arise.
The issue was brought to light when recently a GPS device was found on the car of a suspected drug dealer. The search was irrational as it violated the fourth amendment of the constitution. This triggered a debate about the rights that an individual, in general, and a crime suspect, in particular, is entitled to.
Many civil right prosecutors advocate that since mobile phone tracking is synonymous to having authorities search your house that requires a warrant, one such document should be provided by the police before any such investigations are initiated.
Advocates are of the view that the police should comply with constitutional specifications that demand a clear search warrant from the judge. Exceptions should only be tolerated in the event of any emergency.
A lot of industry giants including Google, Microsoft, AOL, Amazon.com etc have been submitting requests to revise The Electronic Communications Privacy Act as it has been accused time and again of treating digital data inconsistently.
In addition, government officials made the confession that they believe they have the right to track not just criminals but also those that the suspect is frequently communicating with. This entails that if a suspect is calling a relative or even a pizza delivery boy, their mobile phone usage will also be scrutinized. This way a lot of innocent people also became a part of the investigation which is absolutely not the way it should be implemented.
Putting the privacy of a variety of individuals in jeopardy, the law enforcement departments claim that there have been many incidents when prompt access to information such as cell phone usage has saved lives.
The telecom companies and wireless internet providers should list in their policy that the retained data can be disclosed at the request of the police department. On the other hand, police departments should also try to reach a compromise where a criminal’s activities are effectively tracked and an individual’s privacy is also not sacrificed.