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Justice Department Stiffens Phone Tracking Rules

September 4, 2015 - Written By Tom Dawson

As consumers, we enjoy being able to find our smartphones if we lose them or, unfortunately, have our devices stolen. However, we like to think that only we have the ability to track our smartphones when we need to, but that hasn’t always been the case. Location services are often in use by our devices, and while these aren’t used to exactly ‘track’ our devices, it appears as though the US government is more than happy to track us down via our smartphones. Agencies were previously able to use simulated cell-sites in order to capture data and track the whereabouts of suspects, and then keep this data. The Justice Department is now introducing stiffer rules that will better protect the privacy of the innocent public.

These micro cell-sites are used to simulate your everyday AT&T or Verizon network and then gather data on suspects of ongoing investigations to gather info that could lead them to an arrest. These cell-sites can be used without a warrant however, under these new guidelines introduced this week agencies must delete all data gathered by these cell sites of those not believed to be a suspect within thirty days. A turnaround of one day is expected to the be the norm, however. It’s worth noting that these guidelines do not apply to the Homeland Security, the Central Intelligence Agency or the National Security Agency as these fall outside of the Justice Department’s jurisdiction.

This is a step in the right direction, and while it would be nice to see a ban on this sort of data collection outright, criminals still need to be caught. It’s said this sort of practice is best used to capture drug dealers and criminals that operate in certain areas. The fact that law enforcement will now be required to delete this information quicker than usual is reassuring however, and we’d hope that this is only the beginning of similar reforms by the Justice Department and other government bodies.