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Government Still Pushing for Cell Phone Tracking Without Probable Cause


EFF Urges New York Judge to Reject Latest Surveillance Request

New York - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has asked a federal magistrate judge in New York City to reject a Department of Justice (DOJ) request to track a cell phone user without first showing probable cause of a crime. In a brief filed in New York on Tuesday, EFF and the Federal Defenders of New York argue that no law authorizes the government’s request, and that granting the order would threaten Americans’ Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches.

This latest briefing comes after a decision last week in Maryland denying a similar order, which combined with two recent denials published by federal courts in New York and Texas, represents an unprecedented judicial rebuke to the DOJ’s surveillance practices. The DOJ’s apparently routine practice of asking for and receiving cell-tracking orders without probable cause only recently came to light as a result of these newly published decisions; typically, such requests are made and granted in secret, without any public accounting.

“Even though three federal courts have now completely rejected the Justice Department’s arguments for tracking a cell phone without probable cause, it is still asking other judges for these plainly illegal surveillance orders,” said Kevin Bankston, EFF Staff Attorney. “How many public denials is it going to take before the Justice Department either stops seeking such orders altogether, or is willing to appeal one of these decisions and subject its baseless arguments to scrutiny by higher courts?”

The DOJ, despite claims that its cell phone tracking requests are routine, necessary, and perfectly legal, has so far chosen not to appeal any of the recent decisions.


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