Local Police Using NSA Playbook, Add Cell Phone Privacy to Christmas List

Local Police Using NSA Playbook, Add Cell Phone Privacy to Christmas List

The NSA might know what you want for Christmas but what about the local police? They’re learning a thing or two from the NSA playbook. Guess what? You’ve got more than one government agency targeting your cellphone. If one stops listening, there’s probably another agency out there paying close attention to your weekend plans. Talking about the weather might be the only conversation you have on the phone again. Think you have privacy rights regarding your cell phone data? Um, what state are you in again? Not every state even agrees on what cell phone privacy means.

According to FOXNews: “Courts have recently split over police collection of cell phone data. A New Jersey state court ruled this year that cell phone privacy is protected under the New Jersey equivalent of the Fourth Amendment.”

“But a more recent federal court decision came to a different conclusion. ‘A federal court in New Orleans in the Fifth Circuit just ruled last month that under the U.S. constitution, the Fourth Amendment, these records are not protected because they are records of the phone company and not records of the individual,’ says Butler.”

Paul strongly disagreed with the latter on “Fox News Sunday“: “I don’t think you give up your privacy when someone else holds your records. So, when I have a contract with a phone company, I think those are still my records. And you can look at them if you’re from the government if you ask a judge.”

But what if the government is bypassing the phone company altogether? USAToday revealed that law-enforcement agencies are taking the next step in cell phone snooping. They can create fake cell towers using a device called a “Stingray.” Your phone connects to it without interrupting your service and you would never know.

“‘I don’t think that these devices should never be used, but at the same time, you should clearly be getting a warrant,’ said Alan Butler of Electronic Privacy Information Center.”

“In most states, police can get many kinds of cellphone data without obtaining a warrant, which they’d need to search someone’s house or car. “(USAToday)

“So, if we think someone’s a terrorist,” says Paul, “you call a judge. You get a warrant. If that person’s called 100 people, you get 100 more warrants. If they’ve called 10,000 people, you got to get 10,000 individual warrants.”

“And it’s a pain. But it’s a pain because we’re trying to protect people’s freedom. We’re trying to protect the Bill of Rights.”

“…we can’t give up the Bill of Rights in order to try to fight terrorism. You have to keep your privacy. You have to keep the Bill of Rights.” (Fox News on Sunday, Dec 8th)

It’s easy to get caught up in the whole NSA spying scandal, but the NSA playbook has more than one fan. Local law enforcement can collect information on you just as easily. Warrant optional. Your cell phone privacy rights is questionable at best, if not downright ignored. Paul is right. Our Fourth Amendment rights are being trampled on.

 
(Photograph courtesy of jeffschuler, via Flickr Creative Commons)

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