Over the past several months, a great deal of public outrage has been voiced over the fact that the federal government regularly spies on the electronic communications of both Americans and foreign citizens. The privacy implications of this story are so vast that they can be difficult to fully contemplate. They are so widespread as to appear almost abstract. However, the privacy challenges associated with even more personal communications investigation efforts may affect you and any criminal law cases filed against you clearly, immediately and profoundly.
Unlike spying efforts conducted by the National Security Agency (NSA) and other federal agencies, local law enforcement spying efforts tend to affect targets in more ways than widespread privacy violations. If a law enforcement agency receives a warrant to track your cellphone communications, those calls may be used against you in cases that are far more minor than the high-level cases that the NSA troubles itself with.
And unfortunately, the chances that your cellphone is being tapped either with a warrant targeting your activities personally or within a larger capture effort are fairly high. According to a joint investigation by USA Today and Gannett, at least 125 law enforcement agencies nationwide are making large captures of the cellphone data associated with thousands of Americans. These cellphone customers may be the subject of law enforcement investigations and they may not be.
How are these captures being made and what do they mean for criminal defendants? Please check back in with us later this week as we continue our discussion on this pressing and disturbing issue.
Source: Florida Today, “Special report: Police agencies can grab data from your cellphone,” John Kelly and Britt Kennerly, Dec. 9, 2013