It’s just a “routine investigation.”
The feds want the location records of MetroPCS and T-Mobile cell phone customers in Texas without bothering to show that a crime was even committed. The U.S. Attorney in Houston asserts that cell phone users have no reasonable expectation of privacy as to their location, and he wants to have the data without showing a search warrant.
So far, a federal magistrate and a federal judge have said “no.”
But the feds persist in a live case before the Fifth Circuit federal appeals court. In Re: Applications of the USA, No. 11-20884. The authorities assert that getting your location from a cell phone company is like asking for your recent charges from a credit card issuer, or requesting your latest transactions from your bank, or getting business records from your landlord.
It’s not an invasion of privacy for a routine investigation, they say.
Fortunately the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Electronic Privacy Information Center and the ACLU argue the contrary — that people do, in fact, want their cell phone location to be private. For example, iPhone users raised hell after Apple revealed in 2011 that the phones stored a 10-month record of a user’s location. The company revised its operating system to correct the problem.