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Police can track you through your cell phone

Although the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in January that police cannot use GPS locator systems to track suspects, it has not directly addressed the issue of cellphones as tracking devices in law enforcement. Many law enforcement agencies use cellphones, some of which have GPS systems, to follow individuals suspected of drug crimes and other criminal behavior. The degree to which this behavior violates a suspect's Fourth Amendment rights will almost certainly be the subject of future court decisions.

The American Civil Liberties Union has collected internal documents from at least 205 police departments across the United States that reveal the growing role that cell phones play in criminal investigations. In some states, police departments have been able to determine a cell phone user's proximity to a particular tower. In other states, police have been trained in strategies for having cell phone carriers to clone a phone and download text messages, even when the phone is turned off. Some department have their own technology so they can perform the tracking themselves rather than having to ask carriers to do it for them.

The ACLU report lists 49 police departments in New Jersey that have been tracking people's cell phones without seeking warrants that includes both larger communities such as Trenton and Jersey City and smaller places such as Toms River and Gloucester Township.

Source: New York Times, "Police Are Using Phone Tracking as a Routine Tool," by Eric Lichtblau, Mar. 31, 2012.

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