Phone Tracking Isn't Just For the FBI Any More

If you thought phone tracking only happened to super criminals, think again. According to an investigation by the New York Times, police forces are now using phone tracking—something that was previously the domain federal agents—as a routine tool.

In fact, the report suggests that it's a widespread tactic, hushed up by police departments to avoid criticism and scrutiny. From the NYT:

"Law enforcement tracking of cellphones, once the province mainly of federal agents, has become a powerful and widely used surveillance tool for local police officials, with hundreds of departments, large and small, often using it aggressively with little or no court oversight, documents show...

"With cellphones ubiquitous, the police call phone tracing a valuable weapon in emergencies like child abductions and suicide calls and investigations in drug cases and murders. One police training manual describes cellphones as "the virtual biographer of our daily activities," providing a hunting ground for learning contacts and travels."

The report goes on to explain how the practice is widespread—citing example from Nevada, North Carolina, California, Utah and Arizona—and that police departments are keen to keep it on the down low. An Iowa City Police Department training manual, for instance, warns officers: "Do not mention to the public or the media the use of cellphone technology or equipment used to locate the targeted subject."

While there's no evidence that the practice is undertaken without warrants, the New York Times article subtly hints that it might be the case. Big brother is certainly watching—and he doesn't necessarily have permission. [New York Times]

Top image by Johan Larsson/Flickr