Applaud Ruling Against Warrantless Cellular Tracking


Target: Judge Ed Carnes, Eleventh Circuit, United States Court of Appeals

Goal: Praise ban on cellular data gathering without a warrant

Police in Florida, Alabama, and Georgia will now require a warrant to obtain cellphone location data because of a ruling by an Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. The landmark ruling was made after the judges recognized that citizens have a Fourth Amendment right to be secure in their location. Now, police in the Eleventh Circuit states will be unable to use data from “Stingray” cellphone tracking tools without a warrant, and service providers in these states will be unable to disclose private information upon request.

Information about police use of warrantless data collection shows that law enforcement and government officials accessed customer information tens of thousands of times in 2013 alone. Verizon, one of the largest cellphone providers in America, reported 35,000 demands for subscriber data that year, one-third of them without a court order. Recent information about “Stingray” tracking tools shows that they are used in most major cities across America, and are used to triangulate signals in order to pinpoint the exact location of a cell phone.

The ruling could not only prompt similar rulings in other US circuits, but also sets the stage for a Supreme Court ruling that could protect data nationally. The decision will also pressure cell phone providers to require warrants before disclosing any data about customers across the country.

In the digital age, it is important to make sure that privacy protection and anti-surveillance laws are up-to-date with current technology. Your signature will commend the court’s decision, which lends protection to citizens of the Eleventh Circuit and could prompt similar rulings nationwide.


Dear Judge Ed Carnes,

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled to ban cellphone data gathering without a warrant. This means that police will no longer be able to obtain subscriber data from cellular providers, and their ability to use data from tracking tools without probable cause will be limited. The ruling was made after it was decided that the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution protects citizen location data, including that provided by cell phones.

The ruling, which disagrees with a previous Fifth Circuit ruling about the same tracking issues, could now prompt a review by the Supreme Court. It will also open the way for cell providers to consider turning away all warrantless requests for customer data on a national scale. I applaud the court’s decision, which will protect the privacy of millions of American citizens.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: s_falkow via Creative Commons

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