Local Cops Can Track Your Phone, and the Government Doesn’t Want You to Know How

A surveillance technique sparks questions about official secrecy.
Local Cops Can Track Your Phone, and the Government Doesn’t Want You to Know How

by Susannah Nesmith and Jonathan Peters | Columbia Journalism Review | June 23, 2014


Police departments around the country increasingly are using sophisticated technology to surveil American citizens by monitoring cellphone data, in many cases carefully hiding those activities from the public and the press.

The American Civil Liberties Union, along with The Associated Press and USA Today, have all done important work recently to shine a light in the surveillance shadows. Local news outlets, including some here in Florida, have also done valuable reporting on the use of the technology, which offers investigative benefits but also raises constitutional concerns.

It’s vital that a close look at these surveillance practices continues. Local journalists in particular have an opportunity to serve their readers by building on the work that’s been done—work that has raised serious questions about an area of high public interest, and already has had demonstrated impact.

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