September 15, 2008

A Privacy Decision Facing An Uphill Fight [9:42 am]

Judge Limits Searches Using Cellphone Data (pdf)

The government must obtain a warrant based on probable cause of criminal activity before directing a wireless provider to turn over records that show where customers used their cellphones, a federal judge ruled Wednesday, in the first opinion by a federal district court on the issue.

Judge Terrence F. McVerry of the Western District of Pennsylvania rejected the government’s argument that historical cellphone tower location data did not require probable cause.

The ruling could begin to establish the standard for such requests, which industry lawyers say are routine as more people carry cellphones that reveal their locations. Around the country, magistrate judges, who handle matters such as search warrants, have expressed concern about the lack of guidance.

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