back to article Cops gain access to phone location data

Police in some states can now access your phone location data without a warrant, following a Supreme Court decision not to hear the appeal of an armed robber. Quartavious Davis, 23, was convicted of taking part in a string of robberies in the Miami area after police used cell tower data to link him to the sites where and when …

  1. phil dude
    Joke

    I saw this documentary...

    It was called "The Sweeney", set in London. Apparently policemen in plain clothes used to arrest criminals in the act of doing crimes at locations such as airports, warehouses and banks. But noone had mobile phones.

    Could we please ask the creators of this practical guide to policing for their help? It would seem that before there were mobile phones that could be tracked, criminals were still caught in the act of doing bad stuff.

    Yours

    E. Morse,

    Planet Gliese 51C, constellaion Libra

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I saw this documentary...

      You do realise that what you are talking about requires thought, something in very short supply in many police locations, hence the pressing need for the robots to do it for them.

  2. Tromos
    FAIL

    I suspect Davis will find some way of not facing his full 161 year sentence.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I suspect Davis will find some way of not facing his full 161 year sentence.

      Yes, I expect he'll wheedle out of it by "dying" or something.

      1. lockeptrv

        LOL. I like that.

  3. Mark 85 Silver badge

    The way this is headed sounds like: "if you don't want to be tracked, leave the cell phone at home". However, it's unclear as to when the tracking info was received. Was it while looking for a suspect (fishing expedition) or after they had a suspect and were adding to the evidence pile? If I'm standing outside a bank at 9 am every morning, and at 9:05 one fine day it's robbed, I guess I'm a suspect. Or a guy waiting for a bus. Phone data says I was there, witnesses say I never went into the bank but got on the bus.

    I think that "probable cause" and a warrant for phone records needs to be established and if it takes Congress to pass an act to clarify the Constitution, then so be it.

    1. thames

      I find the battery lasts a lot longer if I leave the phone turned off anyway.

    2. Robert Helpmann?? Silver badge
      Childcatcher

      White Listing Rights

      I think that "probable cause" and a warrant for phone records needs to be established...

      Perhaps a better way to deal with surveillance and information gathering of all sorts is to require a warrant no matter what. We will still have warrants rubber stamped, but there should be no possible case of the judiciary or other oversight bodies not being aware of what is going on unless a law is broken. It is a simplistic and perhaps absurd approach, but it certainly removes ambiguity.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Go

        Re: White Listing Rights

        Yep, like all those id10t warnings plastered all over everything you buy. Basically trying to lawyer-proof the mechanics involved.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This is a good thing for smart criminals

    Next time I commit a robbery, I'll leave my phone at home. When the police get a court order to look at my phone records, and find out I was "at home" during the time in question like I said I was, my lawyer will have to be made aware of this court order when my case reaches trial. And he'll make sure that the jury knows that the police checked my phone records, and would have claimed evidence that put me at the scene of the crime had it revealed such, but instead found evidence corroborating my story. He'd be sure to introduce evidence of other trials where phone location records helped convict others, making it sound almost as good as DNA evidence to a gullible jury.

    So long as I'm smart enough to not leave fingerprints or be caught with the stolen goods in my possession, which would both be difficult to explain away, in the case where a prosecutor has a weak hand this might be enough to tip the scales and set me free. All this does is provide another tool to catch stupid criminals, and law enforcement hardly needs another way to do that when stupid criminals have not only brought their phone on a robbery but even posted selfies of themselves WHILE COMMITTING THE ROBBERY!

    Oh wait, I forgot I'm living in a country where the Constitution no longer matters, and they are going to access this data without a court order. So I'll never be able to know that they looked and found nothing and used it in my defense. Corrupt cops of which there are many will be able to look up phone records for people they are harassing, ex girlfriends or potential girlfriends they are stalking, and so forth. Another tool to continue our march towards a police state. Never mind!

    1. Peter 26

      Re: This is a good thing for smart criminals

      Don't underestimate the police. They can also check your browsing history during this time. but there won't be any... hence reason to believe you did not have your phone with you.

      Also I wouldn't be surprised if your phone records when it was idle somewhere on the device if they manage to get physical access to it.

      1. Wzrd1

        Re: This is a good thing for smart criminals

        Heh, if they checked my browsing history, it'd be blank. Even though I was surfing the night away.

        Really now, you *don't* deleted your browsing history?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: This is a good thing for smart criminals

        I think underestimating the police is pretty reasonable. Don't know about the UK but in the US they give candidates an IQ test and will reject them if it is too high! If the FBI gets involved you have to worry, if it is only my local police or sheriff the smartest guy on the force is probably no match for the average Reg reader.

        I have my phone next to me right now but I haven't touched it for over an hour, which is plenty of time to have committed a robbery. Of course, most robberies are committed night while most are sleeping, so if I claim I was asleep in my bed the fact I haven't browsed or even touched my phone will hardly be surprising to the jury.

      3. Vic

        Re: This is a good thing for smart criminals

        They can also check your browsing history during this time. but there won't be any... hence reason to believe you did not have your phone with you.

        How long is it going to take to knock up a script on your laptop that browses ElReg for a couple of hours whilst you're doing the deed?

        My old phone ran Perl. It wouldn't be tricky to have the phone create some browsing history as an alternative.

        Vic.

  5. Warm Braw Silver badge

    That would be "US" cops then.

    Any chance that articles reporting legal decisions could be explicit about the jurisdiction?

    1. Wzrd1

      Re: That would be "US" cops then.

      Well, everything in the article appeared US centric to me.

      Let's see, "Police in some states can now access your phone location data without a warrant", I don't recall any Commonwealth nation having states, save Australia. That's in the first paragraph.

      In the second paragraph, MetroPCS is mentioned, I don't recall that organization being operated in any Commonwealth nation, perhaps I'm wrong though, they might be operating in Canada.

      In the third paragraph, "Police grabbed the records under the 1986 Stored Communications Act", no Commonwealth nation has a "1986 Stored Communications Act".

      Someone either has a reading comprehension problem or that someone is phenomenally dense.

  6. Graham Marsden
    WTF?

    "161 years in prison for the robberies, despite being a first offender"

    I'm sure the right-wing Yanks are cheering and high-fiving each other with delight because, with that sentence, there's no chance he'll ever be a "second-time offender"!

    1. ratfox Silver badge

      Re: "161 years in prison for the robberies, despite being a first offender"

      He didn't make a deal. Big mistake. Just like getting sick without having an insurance; you're guaranteed to be in debt the rest of your life, having to pay thousands for what would normally cost a few bucks.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "161 years in prison for the robberies, despite being a first offender"

        Ever since US prisons were privatized sentences just keep getting longer. I leave the 'why' as an exercise for the reader.

      2. lockeptrv

        Re: "161 years in prison for the robberies, despite being a first offender"

        Room and board! No worse than being in a zoo, and no responsibilities. Might be a dangerous environment, but what isn't.

  7. Jonjonz

    One time use phones

    Anyone seen a spy/crime movie lately.

    The bad guys all use cheapo one time use throwaway flip phones.

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