Court Rebuffs Obama on Warrantless Cell-Site Tracking
David Kravets writes on Threat Level:
A federal appeals court on Wednesday rejected the Obama administration’s contention that the government is never required to get a court warrant to obtain cell-site information that mobile-phone carriers retain on their customers.
The decision by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is one in a string of court decisions boosting Americans’ privacy [.pdf] in the digital age — rulings the government fought against. The most significant and recent decision came Tuesday, when a different federal appeals court said for the first time the government must obtain a court warrant for an internet service provider to grant the authorities access to a suspect’s e-mail.
The case that concluded Wednesday concerns historical cell-site location information, which carriers usually retain for about 18 months. The data identifies the cell tower the customer was connected to at the beginning of a call and at the end of the call — and is often used in criminal prosecutions and investigations.