What is Your Phone Telling Police?

The convenience offered by smartphones has had a life-changing effect. Nearly every phone will have features that make many daily tasks much easier. Chances are, if your phone doesn’t have something, there is an app that you can download to find out whatever information you may need.

However, smartphones are being increasingly used for other reasons as well, which may come as a surprise. Law enforcement will often request information that is stored on smartphones when doing investigations into offenses ranging from terrorism to drug crimes.

Recently, cellphone providers announced that there were over 1.3 million requests by law enforcement for data that was stored on cellphones. This included such information as time and length of phone calls or text messages. Officials would also be able to check what cellphone towers were being used to relay calls or texts, or if location data was being stored in a GPS on the phone.

Each provider will have different rules as to what they will provide. Some will only release very basic subscriber data unless it is an emergency situation (meaning someone is in danger) or if the law enforcement agency has a warrant.

Critics of this practice feel that law enforcement is using requests for data as a way to learn personal information about suspects without getting a warrant. They feel that there needs to be new laws that would prevent police from being able to obtain extensive information from cellphone carriers.

As technology continues to advance, legislators may need to address these privacy concerns to protect cellphone users. Many of the laws currently in effect were passed before smartphones and cellphones became widely used. Without guidelines, law enforcement might be able to use this information without any protections in place.

Source: Huffington Post “Cellphone Surveillance Is Way Up: Here’s The Information Law Enforcement Is After” Bianca Bosker, July 10, 2012.