The Wall Street Journal has a follow-up today that talks about how police track our locations with our cell phones. Now, answering one of my own questions, thanks to some discussion with my wife, what is the difference between using a GPS tracker and a cell phone?
First, of course you can always turn off your cell phone. Because you know you are being tracked, you have a means to defend your privacy. Is it a reasonable means? I would argue “no”. In addition, the feds do not own the data. Instead they have to go to the phone companies to get it. And they do that quite a bit more than using GPS trackers, according to the article. And why not? You pay for the cell phone and your carrier retains the data. It’s darn cheap for the police to make use of all of that rather than have to pay for the tracker and manage it.
There’s another big difference that I alluded to. Police in America do get a court order for cell phone location information. This is why I believe the Obama administration should fail. It is not an onerous task, judging by numbers, to get such an order, and since it isn’t, the onus falls on the administration to show why they shouldn’t make use of the exact same mechanism when the technology changes.