Court Says Tracking by Cell Phone Signal Off Limits

Photo Credit: WNDAmid revelations that the National Security Agency and others have monitored Americans’ cell phone calls, a state court has affirmed the privacy rights of cell phone users.

The decision this week by the New Jersey Supreme Court in the case of Thomas W. Earls applies only to residents of the state, but it is being watched as a possible bellwether in the surging dispute over the government’s surveillance powers.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center said the decision is the first to “establish a constitutional right in location data since the U.S. Supreme Court decided United States v. Jones, a GPS tracking case in which several justices expressed concern about the collection of location data.”

In that case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled police could not attach a tracking device to a suspect’s vehicle and follow him without probable cause and a warrant.

In the Earls case, the court upheld that “individuals have a reasonable expectation of privacy in their cell phone location data.”

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