Sunday, June 05, 2016

Turn Off

Hey you constitutional scholars, time to wake up and smell your briefs. Okay, that didn't come out exactly right, but you might be interested to know that the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia recently ruled that police can use your phone as a tracking device. While it is illegal for police to track you without a warrant, they can go and ask your cell phone provider for records that detail your movements. Your cell phone provider is a third party, and they can answer questions as to your whereabouts even when you don't feel like it.
That's because you turn on that little tracking deal on your phone that watches where you go so that you can find the nearest Starbucks (Hint: if you just passed one, look up the street to your left). But if you're one of those people whose phone is smarter than you are on any given day, that little nod to convenience may just be your undoing.
If you're up to a little light reading, the Fourth Amendment Third Party Doctrine will make this whole issue crystal clear. If you don't have the time to digest all twenty-six pages, let me sum it up for you: The Fourth Amendment of our Constitution  is what protects us from illegal and unwanted searches and seizures. The thing about that Third Party is that when you give away information freely to a bank or a cell phone provider, those little tidbits are just hanging out there for anyone to scoop up and use against you. Even if you turn off that GPS app, your phone company still knows where you are, and they will rat you out in a heartbeat. It's their job to tell everyone, including the police, where you are at all times.
This might not bother you in the context of Uber or Santa Claus, but the idea that someone knows where you are just because you were silly enough to check that box and turn your phone on is more than just a little Orwellian. So just how important is if for you to know how far it is to the next In 'n' Out? That's a matter for you to decide. Along with your phone company and anyone they decide to let in on the details.

No comments: