For Immediate Release
S.T.O.P. Calls On Police to Suspend Cellphone Tracking Following Reports of Widespread Errors
[NEW YORK, NY, 9/12/2019] -- Today, the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project (S.T.O.P.), a New York-based privacy group, called on police and prosecutors to suspend use of cellphone geolocation tracking in criminal investigations, following reports of widespread errors. The demand followed a landmark announcement by Denmark’s public prosecutor, who declared that cellphone location data is not accurate enough to be used in criminal cases.
SEE: Denmark frees 32 inmates over flaws in phone geolocation evidence
Danish justice system rocked by flawed phone location evidence
“This news is alarming to anyone who doesn’t want their cellphone to become a perpetual tracking device,” said Surveillance Technology Oversight Project Executive Director Albert Fox Cahn. “Not only is cellphone geolocation tracking invasive, we now know it gets it wrong. Law enforcement gathers this sort of information on a daily basis, but now we have to wonder how many Americans are wrongly imprisoned because of flaws in how location data is collected. The answer is clear, we must suspend our use of cellphone location tracking until we understand both its accuracy and its privacy impact.”
Cellphone geolocation tracking uses phone company records to track a phone’s location over a period of days, months, or even years. Phone companies record the location of any cellular device, so long as it’s powered-on and connected to the cell network, even if the device isn’t being used to place or receive a call.
Cell Site Location Information
The request came a month after the New York privacy group condemned the Manhattan district attorney’s office for using a so-called “reverse search warrant” to obtain information on all the cellphones in a geographic area, in what the group claims amounts to a “digital dragnet.” Unlike traditional search warrants, which target the data for a single phone or account, reverse search warrants sweep up information on all the individuals in a specific location (a block, or a neighborhood) at given time. The latest revelations show that reverse search warrant may be even less targeted, and more invasive, than previously understood.
SEE: S.T.O.P. Condemns Manhattan DA Reverse Search Warrant As ‘Digital Dragnet’
Manhattan DA Made Google Give Up Information on Everyone in Area as They Hunted for Antifa
The Surveillance Technology Oversight Project is a non-profit advocacy organization and legal services provider hosted by the Urban Justice Center. S.T.O.P. litigates and advocates for privacy, fighting excessive local and state-level surveillance. Our work highlights the discriminatory impact of surveillance on Muslim Americans, immigrants, and communities of color.
- END –
CONTACT: STOP Executive Director Albert Fox Cahn