An Analysis of Cell Phone Technology, Security, and Individual Rights
In this technology driven era, I question what effect cell phones are having on our lives as American citizens? To investigate this, I read two articles. The first reading was “Mobile Phone Tracking Scrutinized” by Nikki Swartz originally published in the Information Management Journal for March/April 2006, and the second reading was “Reach out and Track Someone” by Terry J. Allen, originally published by In These Times on May 15, 2006. In her article, Swartz questions the legality of using a cell phone’s GPS system as a tracking device in situations when crimes are involved. She argues the potential violation of Fourth Amendment rights and describes loopholes our government avoids when the data is as a surveillance device. In her article, “Reach Out and Track Someone”, Allen shows the conspiracy theorist’s view of cell phone data tracking use. She suggests the government uses of warrantless wiretapping, and argues the communications companies and government have been involved in questionable activities (p1). Swartz and Allen question the government’s practices using cell phone data; Swartz sees the issue as practical is some cases, where Allen sees an overt violation of privacy. Both of the articles brought up two important questions. How do we define our expectation of privacy, and when does the government’s need take precedence, and even violate an individual’s expectation of privacy?
Swartz and Allen both agree the government’s use of cell pone surveillance is questionable, however they disagree on where the line should be drawn. For example, Swartz’s view is objective when prosecutors make the argument that having access to such crucial data is important to locating and verifying a suspect’s whereabouts (p2). She is concerned however, about the government not being required to report publicly when it requests the right to obtain cell phone tacking data on a moving suspect form the courts (p1). She is concerned about defining the line where obtaining the data becomes relevant and material to the ongoing investigation in comparison to just probable cause.
In contrast, Allen’s passion is to protect citizen’s privacy. She is eager to blame capitalism of the telecom companies. Allen presents a good argument about a case when a young woman was murdered and the cell phone tracking record of the suspect’s activities on the night of the murder, led to his arrest, not an actual call. She also has difficulty with the Justice Department warrantless wiretapping because getting a search warrant can mean dangerous delays (p1). Her concern is that the government can track a cell phone anywhere, even if not during an actual call.
Swartz and Allen both question how much information cell phone companies should store. Swartz seems to appear more accepting of its use where Allen fears the location information can be released easily, possible without regard to privacy. I find...