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ACLU's New Project to Uncover Details on Law Enforcement Use of Location Tracking

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*Photo of ACLU's map of state affiliates that submitted FOI requests for data and information

The ACLU has launched a massive effort with more than thirty of its state affiliates to uncover just how law enforcement agencies, large and small, are using cell phone location data to track Americans. The national organization and its affiliates submitted 379 requests through state Freedom of Information (FOI) laws and hope to unearth documentary evidence to show just how law enforcement is using new technology to invade Americans' privacy.

"We want to get a better handle on the scope of location tracking in this country, how often it happens, where it's happening, whether or not the government gets a warrant based on probable cause," says Catherine Crump, a staff attoreney for the ACLU's Speech, Privacy and Technology Project. She believes this effort will demonstrate law enforcement is using technology tracking more and more often for cases.

Through the FOI requests, the ACLU seeks to uncover information on: "whether law enforcement agents demonstrate probable cause and obtain a warrant to access cell phone location data; statistics on how frequently law enforcement agencies obtain cell phone location data and how much money law enforcement agencies spend tracking cell phones and other policies and procedures used for acquiring location data."

The ACLU takes a clear stance on location tracking, according to Crump. They "think location tracking is deeply invasive of people's privacy rights and the government should only be allowed to do it when they have a warrant based on probable cause." But, it is clear "that's not what's happening. We think that violates the Constitution."

"The American public should know the extent to which people are getting tracked without getting a warrant," Crump declares.

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She notes how much location tracking has been in the news recently. Not a week goes buy, she says, that we don't read about a new development related to location tracking. For example, the Supreme Court is "poised to address the issue of whether or not the Fourth Amendment requires the government to attach GPS devices."

Read more of this article at FDL's The Dissenter.

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Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure." He was an editor for

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