Senator Al Franken (D-MN) is demanding answers to questions about the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) practice of gathering data from wireless providers in order to monitor individuals’ movements using mobile phone location data.
Franken released a copy of a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder on Thursday (PDF). In it, he outlined his concern that local law enforcement is circumventing a recent Supreme Court ruling that found certain types of monitoring a violation of Fourth Amendment protections against unlawful search and seizure. Franken worries that law enforcement’s reliance on data provided directly by wireless providers, without a warrant, violates both the spirit and letter of the recent ruling.
The January Supreme Court ruling in the case of United States vs. Jones stemmed from a case in which the FBI attached a GPS device to the car of a suspect, Antoine Jones, in a drug trafficking case. In their ruling, the Justices determined that attaching a GPS to a vehicle and then using it to monitor that vehicles movement constitutes a search under the Fourth Amendment. Jones’s conviction was reversed.
In his letter, Franken said he wants to know how frequently the DoJ makes such requests to wireless carriers, and what legal standard it must meet to obtain such information. Specifically, Franken asks how many such requests have been made in the last five years, and how many individuals were affected by them. Franken also asked for information on the information that is being asked for and whether the DoJ’s practices changed at all since the Jones decision.
You can read Franken’s letter, which is hosted on the American Civil Liberties Website, here.