Federal Court: Cell Phone Tracking Without a Warrant Is A-OK

A Federal Appeals court has ruled that search warrants are not required by law enforcement agencies if they wish to seize cellphone records.

The ruling, from the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals, claims that collection of such data doesn't violate the Fourth Amendment—and doesn't need to pass the probable cause test. The decision overturns another ruling from way back in 2011, in which a Texas judge argued that the seizure of cell phone records without a search warrant did violate the Fourth Amendment.

The new ruling rests on the fact that the court considers the data—numbers dialed, the date and time of communication, that kind of thing—to be part of the service provider's business records. As a result, with "reasonable grounds", argues the court, the info is fair game to the authorities.

It's probably not the end of the argument, though. Maine and Montana, for instance, have both passed legislation this year stating that search warrants must be used to access any location information from phones details, and a Jersey Supreme Court also recently ruled the same. You can read the full ruling from the new case here. [5th US Circuit Court of Appeals via WSJ via Engadget]

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