Editor Warns that the Government Can Freely Track People Using Their Cell Phone Signal

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Lawyers.com Editor in Chief warns that cell phone users have no expectation of privacy when the police want to use the GPS signal to track a person.

The government now can track you from the sky without a warrant.

If you don't want the police to know which doors you knocked on as a precinct committeeman, or whether you went to church or went to a bar, or whether you went to the gym or to see your girlfriend -- leave your cell phone somewhere else.

Lawyers.com Editor in Chief Larry Bodine has issued a warning that the government does not need to get a warrant when it wants to stalk a person by using the GPS signal in their cell phone, thanks to a new court decision.

Writing in the Huffington Post and Lawyers.com, Bodine said that the ruling by the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in U.S. v. Skinner, Case No. 09-6497, is "frightening."

The ruling, which applies nationwide, says that people have no expectation of privacy when the police want to track their location using their cell phone.

"Think about it: the government now can track you from the sky without a warrant, as well as track all the attendees with cell phones at a political meeting. The can follow you because you attended an Occupy Wall Street protest or because they think you had too many glasses or merlot. If the police get a tip that you're wearing clothes commonly used in a crime, they can literally watch your every step," Bodine says.

Many people think that if they have nothing to hide, they have nothing to fear.

"However, by tracking your cell phone, the government will know whose doors you knocked on as a precinct committeeman, whether you went to church or went to a bar, or whether you went to the gym or to your girlfriend's house," Bodine says.

The Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, Ohio, ruled that police efficiency and convenience overrides a person's right to be free of electronic spying. The case in question involved a marijuana arrest, but the ruling applies to the 85% of adults who own a cell phone, a dashboard navigation device and many iPads.

Cell phones keep sending a signal several times a minute even though they are turned off. The only way to stop the GPS signal from a cell phone is to take out the battery, which is nearly impossible for the 75 million consumers who own an iPhone.

In the view of the Sixth Circuit, it is too much effort for the police to get a warrant to catalog a person's movements by using their phone's GPS signal. "Using a more efficient means of discovering this information does not about to a Fourth Amendment violation," the court said.

In a dissent, Judge Bernice B. Donald said, "... the question is simply whether society is prepared to recognize a legitimate expectation of privacy in the GPS data emitted from any cell phone. Because I would answer this question in the affirmative, I cannot join... the majority opinion.

Bodine advised that if people think the police have been tracking them with their cell phone, they should look up a criminal defense attorney on a site like Lawyers.com.

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