US carriers fight law that would force them to see a warrant before giving your data to cops

The California Location Privacy Bill (SB 1434) proposes to require cellular phone companies to stop their practice of giving your location data to the police without a warrant. Phone companies would still be allowed to give your information to the police if they got a warrant, first.

Naturally, the CTIA -- the mobile carriers' industry association -- opposes it. They say that it will be "unduly burdensome" to have to say no when the police show up without a warrant, and to keep track of how often they give your information to the cops, and why. Cyrus Farivar has more on Ars Technica:

In an April 12, 2012 letter addressed (PDF) to State Senator Mark Leno (author of the bill), CTIA says it is opposed to SB 1434 because it may "create confusion for wireless providers and hamper their response to legitimate law enforcement investigations." The group also states that "[the bill will] create unduly burdensome and costly mandates on providers and their employees and are unnecessary as they will not serve wireless consumers."

Earlier this month, the ACLU said it received over 5,500 pages from 200 local law enforcement agencies about their tracking policies. The organization concluded that "while cell phone tracking is routine, few agencies consistently obtain warrants. Importantly, however, some agencies do obtain warrants, showing that law enforcement agencies can protect Americans' privacy while also meeting law enforcement needs." In short, it seems like law enforcement can stay within the law, even when it takes the trouble to get a warrant—how is that confusing?

Cellphone industry opposes California location privacy bill (via /.)


    1. Enforced by…?

      I understand your sentiment, but we seriously need to remove corruption from top to bottom before we can get at police conduct. Remove legislators, campaign, revolt, whatever it takes to put average citizens back into charge.

      1. Enforced by cops, naturally, who are subject to other laws and other cops and legislators and cops and other laws made by other laws and cops and laws and legislators in the legislature.

  1. And, yet, when your phone is stolen, they will refuse to track on “Privacy” issues. Quite reprehensible. 

    1. Seriously, they just said it’s not worth their time to validate invasions of privacy of their customers. Oh really? How about fuck you and I work towards finding something else, and take others?

      Of course, it might be easier to just reboot the system.

  2. I’ve heard of these new-fangled thinking machines called “computers” that the cell carriers could use to keep track of things like this.  They should get themselves some.  They might even be able to use them to keep track of your calling patterns and usage instead of the buildings full of clerks that they use now.

  3. When I worked for a carrier as a tech support sup, the magic words were “life or death emergency” and “we’ll send the warrant in the morning”. OK, then, what did you want to know?

    This was after-hours. During business hours the cops would just call the head of the local fraud department … who was a retired cop who still moonlighted with the police when they needed extra hands. The few times I pushed back about the hole “What about a warrant?” thing, I got to face him in the director’s office, with him screaming that I didn’t know the law, how dare I presume to tell him what the law is, yada yada yada. 

    In actuality many of the frontline reps don’t have access to any of that location information any more. Not because of anything to do with customers. Too many reps were using the access to spy on their own boyfriends/girlfriends/exes/etc.

  4. Whoa! Talk about service! Or rather complete absence thereof. 

    You would think it was cops that paid for YOUR cellphone service hearing them carriers.

    Given that you entrust them with personal information and communications and pay for it, their attitude should rather be “Our customers’ right to privacy and confidentiality, as well as their trust are paramount to us, and we should have a legal warrant to compromise them”

  5. I was on a jury during a case in which the location data from the defendant’s cellphone was quite important. The carrier (MetroPCS) sent a staffer up from Atlanta to give expert testimony for the prosecution, and I had the sense that she was basically a ‘VP in charge of giving expert testimony for the Prosecution’ in that she seemed to fly around the country full time doing just that.

    Her testimony made it clear to me that location data is very nearly like having a bug in your car or a GPS on your body. Given the recent 4th amendment case re:GPS tracking on cars, I wonder how this info can be obtained without a warrant? It’s ridiculous. 

  6.  I’m curious – was the location data procured without a warrant, and if so did the defence counsel bring that up?

  7. I wonder if it has occurred to them that the NUMBER of requests would drop dramatically if they needed to see a warrant.  Sure each one might take 3x as long, but if they saw 1/10 as many requests, it would be better.

    I know a person who works at a small ISP and he says that cops are always surprised to hear them say they need to see a warrant to get logs.  His feeling is that hardly anyone asks.  Furthermore, the cops rarely come back with a warrant so he doesn’t think they have one most of the time, they’re just fishing.

    Requiring a warrant would actually reduce the amount of work they have to do.

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