According to the American Civil Liberties Union, dozens of different law enforcement entities have been using cell phone technology to track Americans without their permission, and most often, without first securing a warrant.
Catherine Crump, a staff attorney for the ACLU, recently explained the research findings of the organization, which is devoted to protecting the civil rights of American citizens: “The most disturbing finding of our study is that law enforcement agents frequently track the locations of cell phones without getting a warrant based on probable cause. Where someone goes can reveal a great deal of information about them, from who all of their friends are to what medical professionals they visit to what civic or political organizations they join.”
Privacy experts were outraged last Christmas when it seemed that malls and other large shopping centers would be using cell phone tracking data to build up a picture of consumer preferences in the physical layout of the facility. This situation, however, is ever so much worse. The ACLU asked for information from nearly 400 different law enforcement agencies. Only about 200 provided any information, but among those, the findings were remarkable. Only 10 agencies claimed not to track individuals by means of their cell phones.
Law enforcement representatives insist that the practice is largely benign and is only used as needed to follow up on and solve missing persons cases, or in situations where the welfare of the missing person was in doubt. Citizens concerned about privacy, however, wonder about the absolute truthfulness of such claims.