Federal Judge Rejects Warrantless Cellphone Tracking

A federal judge has rejected the US Government’s request to track the location of a mobile phone user without a warrant. Federal Magistrate James Orenstein in New York reaffirmed an earlier decision that tracking cell phone users in real time required a showing of probable cause that a crime was being committed.

The fifty-seven page opinion issued this week is available from the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Earlier in the month, a magistrate judge in Texas, following the lead of Orenstein’s original decision, published his own decision denying a government application for a cell phone tracking order. According to the EFF, that ruling, along with Judge Orenstein’s two decisions, revealed that the DOJ has routinely been securing court orders for real-time cell phone tracking without probable cause and without any law authorizing the surveillance.

The EFF website also contains links to the following Legal Documents:

Eastern District of New York

  • Court Order Denying Government Request for Cell Phone Tracking August 25, 2005
  • Government Request that Court Reconsider its Decision September 9, 2005
  • EFF Letter Asking Permission to File a Brief September 16, 2005
  • Court Order Granting EFF Permission to File a Brief September 19, 2005
  • EFF Brief Opposing Government September 23, 2005
  • Government Reply to EFF Brief October 11th, 2005
  • Second Court Order Reaffirming Denial of Government’s Cell Phone Tracking Request October 24th, 2005
  • Southern District of Texas

  • Government Memorandum Arguing for Authorization to Track Cell Phone August 23, 2005
  • Court Order Denying Government Request for Cell Phone Tracking October 14, 2005