Cellphone Tracking is Common and Policies Vary, Says ACLU



With headlines abounding about the ease with which our activities and travels can be tracked via those handy, better-than-Star Trek-communicators devices we're so accustomed to toting around,it's worth giving some thought to just how likely it is that our personal cellphones are beng used to snitch on us. Fortunately, the American Civil Liberties Union is doing the hard work of contacting law-enforcement agencies around the country to determine what policies they have in place, and the frequency with which they implement those policies to plot our movements on the map like so many migrating wildebeest. Speaking of maps, the ACLU has an interactive map by which you can find the responses received so far to their queries — and some of those answers are doozies.

Here are some highlights:

The law enforcement guide for police in Irvine, CA specifically states, "Do not disclose this information in court any more than is absolutely necessary to make your case. Never disclose to the media these techniques—especially cell tower tracking."

We saw the same attitude in training materials from the Iowa Fusion Center, which instructs law enforcement, "Do not mention to the public or media the use of cell phone technology or equipment to locate the targeted subject."

The ACLU does note that "some of the law enforcement agencies in California, Nevada, North Carolina, and Wisconsin, reported that, like their counterparts in parts of Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Nevada, and New Jersey, they always obtain probable cause warrants in order to track cell phone location information." But, I'll point out that, among those agencies claiming to adhere to a probable cause standard is Arizona's own Maricopa County Sheriff's Office (PDF), and I wouldn't believe an MCSO spokescritter who claimed that water was wet.

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  1. better-than-Star Trek-communicators

    How. DARE. You. I stopped reading after that point.

    Obviously law enforcement aren’t going to disclose these things to civilians. That would be like FDR telling Hitler he had the key to the Enigma machine.

    1. Uh hey, tough guy, could Kirk’s communicator play Angry Birds?


      1. YOU DON’T KNOW THAT IT COULDN’T. Check the official canon and tell me all the times he was working those tiny knobs in frustration he wasn’t playing Angry Birds. (Go ahead, try to turn that sentence against me.)

        1. Well he was definitely angry when working his tiny knob.

        2. Do you play Angry Birds when you’re working your tiny knob in frustration?

      2. Really, do you think there was time in Kirk’s epic lifestyle to play games on communicators?

        1. Maybe the games were part of foreplay? Of course, I don’t see Kirk as a foreplay kind of guy. Although if I remember a few TOS episodes correctly, he was pretty good at pillow talk, post facto.

          1. For women, Kirk is foreplay.

    2. If you’re going to take offense when someone says cellular telephones are better than fake shit that doesn’t exist from Star Trek, you should think about making your life productive. Invest in some savings bonds, or hookers.

      1. TJ Hooker?

      2. How about savings bonds for hookers?

        /Bill Blazejowski

      3. Oh wow, Death Rock and Skull, you’re so cool and Alpha as fuck!

      4. Doesn’t exist yet. This ain’t Star Wars, dummy. Not a long time ago but the future. Do you really think they’re going to regress, technologically speaking? Think before commenting, otherwise you run the risk of looking like a fool on the internet.

  2. speaking for us. we don’t track without PC and a warrant

    an exception can be made in certain exigent circs (like a kidnap victim we had recently), but those are pretty rare.

    granted, i live in WA state and we fortunately have a right to privacy under our constitution, substantially restricting law enforcement compared to most other states, like that craptastic statist nightmare – california

    otoh, if you CALL 911 from a cell phone, your location is automatically transmitted. we frequently respond to calls for help, etc. from cells based on GPS data when they don’t know the address.

    i arrested some nimrod for agg assault the other day who called 911 as well. led me right to his location where he was cowering hunkered down in a vehicle.
    again, much like the moron in the other thread who calls 911 while leaving his grow op in plain view, … we mostly catch the stupid ones

    1. Criminals are stupid.

      Last week, I was out and about, trying to score some Mid-Century Modern furniture at the thrift stores around Orange County. I was entering a Goodwill store in Anaheim, and there was a woman in the parking lot on the line with the Police. She was reporting the theft of her TV set, and said she knew who the perpetrator was. He was standing next to her! He was begging the lady to not call the police, but she said that the cops were on their way.

      I went into the store and browsed for about ten minutes. On my way back to my truck, the (alleged) perpetrator was still begging the lady to not call the police. As I exited the parking lot, two Orange County Sheriff Cruisers whipped into the parking lot.

      Why did the guy stick around and just wait for the Sheriff? I would have split, myself. Criminals that get caught are dumb.

      1. Only 10 minutes to get there? They must have had to go back to the station for their latex “see these fists? they’re gonna fuck you up” gloves.

      2. i’m always surprised at how few people run, frankly.

        in 20 yrs, i’ve had a # of foot pursuits, but in general… people don’t run as often as you would think

        foot pursuits can sometimes lead to tragedy. cops get shot during them not infrequently, since they are ceding a tactical advantage in many cases

        and in cases like the matt paul downtown seattle foot pursuit, the guy got tackled into a wall and ended up in a coma

        entirely justified, but tragic as fuck.

        i haven;t had a food pursuit for about 6 months. they’re rarer than you would think

        1. Hey Douchey. You’re still corny, clown.

      1. I’ll score this one myself and save you the time, dunphy.



        1. ah yes. sloopy, the ruler of reason HR deigning to speak for everybody

          get over yourself. you aint king here. you don’t speak for anybody, and you can go back to your stupid pop culture references, contentless posts, and meaningless, uninspired sad little life, ok?


          1. more trolls trolling


            1. again, epi sloopy warty et al. exactly the cadre of trolls i was referring to.

              you guys are scattering around like fucking cockroaches.

              get over yourself.

              1. you are human garbage

                if you disappeared off the face of the earth tomorrow, no one would miss any of you

                and that’s totally not a threat, no way

            2. trolls a trolling. tra-la-la

              that aside, good that this criminal cop was caught, and good that he will likely be tried and convicted.

              cops like this are a pox on the profession

              1. cops like this are a pox on the profession


                1. smooches, troll

                2. trolls will lie and troll. tra-la-la

                  1. How are we “lying”? By posting a story about a cop who pistol-whipped a kid, lied about it and the department let the kid rot in jail for months before dropping the charges (even thought they knew the cop was lying about the interaction)? That’s indicative of the department, not of this officer. They collectively knew this kid did nothing wrong and the cop manufactured the charges to cover up his criminal behavior. That’s the thick blue line. And in this case, it got broken by an accidentally-released security camera, otherwise it would have gone without punishment and this kid would likely have ended up in prison.

                    Fuck you, scumbag. These are your fellow officers and the comments at PoliceOne are how others in your “profession” feel about it.

              2. cops like this are a pox on the profession dime a dozen*

                FIFY, Mr New Professionalism.

                *Read the comments and you’ll see what I mean

                1. as i have said before, the nims who post on tha site are much like you and your ilk. a fortunately non-representative sample of bigoted, closeminded fools.

                  you are their spitting image in every way

                  1. Seriously, though, dunphy, why are you here? You are loathed by nearly everyone, including the editors.

                    trolls gonna troll

                    1. again, outside your childih little gang, warty, i have seen plenty of posts thanking me for being here and saying they respect me and what i do

                      you, epi, sloopy, sarc, and your ilk don’t fucking run this place

                      i expect dischord because i am not circle jerking with you on the belief that cops are thugs

                      i am presenting facts that in many cases destroy many preconceptions that you are your ilk have and are ignored.

                      the first reaction i got here was the “ilk” disbelieving i was a cop

                      that lasted about 6 months

                      then, gradual acceptance of that, but a lot of bullshit about how no libertarian could be a cop because drug laws derp derp derp

                      now, it’s just devolved to incessant trolling and personal attacks

                      i greatly enjoy the intelligent discourse here, both with people i agree with, and those i disagree with

                      i’m starting to grow tired of you and your ilk’s bullshit, so ill probably just start ignoring it. and continue to engage with the adults

                      i’m not here to be loved. im here to learn, share, and speak truth

                      and you can suck it if that upsets your circle jerk

                    2. again, outside your childih little gang, warty, i have seen plenty of posts thanking me for being here and saying they respect me and what i do

                      [citation required]

                      i am presenting facts that in many cases destroy many preconceptions that you are your ilk have and are ignored.

                      Oh, that’s right. Your anecdotes are “facts” while story after story that we post are mere trolling.

                      i greatly enjoy the intelligent discourse here, both with people i agree with, and those i disagree with

                      So do we. That’s why it sucks when I open a thread and see your name in the bottom right corner

                      i’m starting to grow tired of you and your ilk’s bullshit, so ill probably just start ignoring it. and continue to engage with the adults

                      I know a perfect way for you to ignore us.

                      i’m not here to be loved. im here to learn, share, and speak truth

                      Let me know when you decide to start on any of these three projects. Perhaps it will be right after your world surfing tour, or your powerlifting championships, or the physics tutoring sessions, or the internet poker works championships or the renewal of vows with Morgan Fairchild?

                      and you can suck it if that upsets your circle jerk

                      Nothing upsets our circle jerk. Do you hear me? Nothing!

                      No wait, that last part doesn’t sound right…

                  2. Care to address the department covering up for the pistol-whipping officer until (OOPS!) a security camera they couldn’t confiscate the tape from pretty much sinks their closed-ranks bullshit?

                    Care to address why they let a man they knew to be innocent face a bond he could not make and languish in jail for over three months while they covered for this scumbag criminal cop?

                    you are their spitting image in every way

                    Except that I don’t have a monopoly on force, co-workers that will cover up my criminal behavior, a contract that allows me to operate with impunity and an IQ of 86. Other than that, I’m probably just like them.

                    1. By the way, the victim has filed a $10,000,000 case against the city, county, officer and department. I hope he gets every fucking penny of it and the taxpayers revolt.

                    2. what;s there to address?: a criminal officer and corrupt members of his dept covering up for him.

                      it’s that simple

                      they are fucking scum and they should serve a long sentence.

                    3. His fucking department knew he committed a crime and they let it ride while this kid rotted in jail. I know that means nothing to you, but he had his freedom taken away when the department knew it had an officer that lied about the incident (and a partner that let it go that night) where he pistol-whipped an unarmed, innocent person who just wanted to be left alone.

                      It’s not about the officer that got caught when a private citizen released the surveillance tape of the incident his department had been covering up. It’s about the culture of criminality that makes this story all-too-common: protect your fellow officers even at the loss of freedom for a “civilian”.

                      Don’t you see that, you idiot? Don’t you understand we realize there are bad eggs, but we cannot stand the culture of the cover-up? It’s the thick blue wall of silence and protecting criminal activity that gets to us, along with the double-standard and the sense of entitlement and lack of accountability you enjoy that we don’t.

                      I could live with 1 in 10 cops being bad/crooked if the departments prosecuted them to to the fullest extent of the law, but I cannot abide a culture that intentionally lets people rot in jail so a “brother officer” won’t be forced to pay for his actions. That’s what’s wrong with you and your brother officers, dumbass. And you will never understand that because you are an enabler just like all the others out there that treat your own different better than the rest of us.

                    4. I said “we” a lot. I should not have spoken for the others here, as those thoughts may not represent their views.

                      I apologize to the other commentators on here I mistakenly lumped in with me in that comment.

                    5. I said “we” a lot. I should not have spoken for the others here, as those thoughts may not represent their views.

                      Hey sloopy, I give you permission to speak for me in matters of police abuse.

                      So you can go back to using “we”.

                    6. Really though, the worst part is when you compare what this to what would happen to a non-cop who assaulted someone and then filed a false police report that put that person in jail. They’d be in jail! But I guess being a cop means you have a get-out-of-jail-free card.

                      Shouldn’t cops be held more responsible for abusing their powers to commit crimes, not less? Hm, Dunphy?

                    7. You wanna crank the rage up to 11, check this out.

                    8. according to the FBI LEJ, cop IQ’s average 110

                      not sure if that’s accurate, but it’s at least a statistic, whereas you just have rhetoric.

                      and you are their spitting image. in every way. the ideas are different, but the mentality and disorder is exactly the same.

                    9. IQ of 110, yet for some reason when Seattle PD beats the Mexican Piss out of people, they need ADDITIONAL TRAINING. Does the training must cover how to make sure the video evidence gets deleted next time or how to make sure there are no witnesses?

                    10. Yeah, the moar training will fix it and procedures were followed memes are perfect examples of bureaucratic ass covering in lingo that no one outside the bureaucracy gives a shit about.

                      Here’s a thought: If your cops don’t know that brutalizing innocent people and then lying about it are wrong, absent the ‘right’ training; they’re too fucked up to be cops.

                      Oh nos, we can’t have that, cause absolute job security is what you need for people with a monopoly on using violence.

  3. OT: More Biden fun.

    Is he drunk?

    1. A heartbeat away!

    2. I think the two guys are thinking to themselves “most awkward foursome ever.”

      1. Looks to me like they’re thinking about where to dump his body.

    3. I swear this is true–he’s my favorite vice president ever.

      You think Joe thinks the “vice” in vice president has the alternative meaning?

    4. Uh, the Onion has been reporting on Uncle Joe for quite some time. This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.

  4. Wow, it’s like “Eagle Eye” is real, or something.

  5. A fake Romney quote has some people upset.

  6. This poor guy is obviously a victim here.

    150 hrs of community service for falsifying countless police records and costing the taxpayers a shitload of money? I’m sure it’s all you or I would have gotten. Right, dunphy?

    1. It’s OK Sloop, an arbitrator will reinstate him and Dunphy will tell us to read the arbitrator’s report and that maor training was needed for this poor officer who couldn’t write enough citations.


  7. You fuckin’ yo bitch when da fone rings. You say “Wassup” and dat nigga on the other end say “Nigga, what the fuck you doin’ wit my daughter!?” Then yo bitch say “My daddy got a cap in his ass”. THEN WHO THE FUCK WAS ON DA FONE?


      Perhaps it was her mamma?

  8. If you have a newsletter to which I may subscribe, I would be very grateful, as your views intrigue me.

  9. I was sitting with my fair maiden when I received a message from my lady’s dear father, the parcel read “What art thou doing with thine daughter?” She mentioned her father had perished in the crusades. THEN WHO WAS COURIER?


      Based on the fact that it was sent during the crusades and just arriving, I’d say a US Post Office employee.

      1. So true.

  10. Alright my yout, mi and dis fine gyal decide we waan fi go park, we went pon swing, pon slide, and even have good time a bounce pon teeter-totter. Buoy, it fun mi tell yuh. Been long since we frolic ina park. We sit dung a ground fi have lunch, afta lunch she waan fi go home, so we went to her house fi watch movie and sinting. Mi tell you, the gyal mus be one freak, cause she jump pon my lap and start suck out mi face. After 5 minute the blood clot phone ring and mi answer. One rated man come yell ina mi ear, man was livid! Him say sumthing like ‘YO STAR, A WEH YOU A DO WIT MI PICKEY?’ Mi just give one sour look pon my girl face and ask a wuh dis man business? Gyal tell me her dad ded, him ina ground, ded, ded, ded. A WHO DI BUMBACLOT DEH PON MY PHONE?

    1. I swear, if it weren’t so late at night, I’d swear this was John with his normal ratio of typos.

  11. I see 4 chan has arrived.

    1. Haha. I know you’re kidding because there is no such thing as 4chan.

      Right? Right?!

    2. HyR is just an annex of /b/, yes?

      1. I do not miss the trap threads, that’s for sure.

  12. No one here bothered to cover Gary Johnson’s Town Hall meeting? Jebus….

    1. Drink!

  13. I don’t really find anything upsetting about those quotes. Criminals are stupid, even white collar ones. Cops not advertising the fact that you have a tracker in your pocket makes perfect sense.

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