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Cellphone tracking: Require a warrant

May 19. 2015 9:02PM

If the government can track your movements via your mobile phone, it can do more than know where you are at any given time. It can create a detailed personal profile capable of predicting your future movements. And yet we still do not require a warrant before the government can track you via an electronic device.

Thursday, the state Senate is to consider a bill that would write that warrant requirement into law. It is a must-pass bill.

How much information can a government agency obtain by tracking you via your phone or other electronic device?

“When the government has a record of everywhere we’ve gone on a continuous basis over a period of time, they know our religious beliefs, our health information, our associations, our political views, our most private activities,” Susan Freiwald, a law professor at the University of San Francisco, told National Journal earlier this month.

Two years ago, researchers from MIT and the Université Catholique de Louvain in Belgium studied anonymous cellphone data for 1.5 million users and found that they could positively identify a person with 95 percent accuracy based on only four points of reference.

Researchers at the University of Birmingham in the UK found a few years ago that they could predict people’s future movements based on past cellphone location data.

House Bill 468, which passed the House in March, states that police may not “obtain location information from an electronic device without a warrant issued by a judge based on probable cause and on a case-by-case basis.” It contains exceptions for emergencies. Without this needed civil liberties protection, we enable the sort of surveillance state that would render New Hampshire’s motto meaningless.

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