Court Says It’s Legal For Your Phone To Notify You. Here’s How To Make A Mouthpiece.

In a 2-to-1 majority decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in Texas, law enforcement gave the green light to access your phone’s location information without a warrant. What the police and other authorities need is a simple court order issued to a lower standard than a traditional search warrant.

“Authorities only need a court order, not a stricter search warrant, to obtain cell phone recordings that can be used to track a person’s movements,” a federal appeals court said Tuesday. Associated press reported.

The Fifth Circuit overturned an earlier Houston federal judge decision. Under this overturned ruling, the judge says cell phone data is protected and can only be retrieved by authorities with a warrant.

“The Fourth Amendment, protected by the Courts, only protects reasonable expectations of privacy,” the Fifth Chamber judges wrote as they overturned the verdict. Apparently reasonable expectations do not cover cell phone location data.

As a result, law enforcement now only needs a court order. To obtain this court order, they simply have to show that they have reasonable grounds to believe that the information they seek will assist them in their investigation. The legal standard here is much lower than having to seek a full warrant.

Still, the constitutionality of how cell phone data was obtained is hotly debated, with different courts divided over the decision. The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that a search warrant was necessary.

Maine and Montana also required permission to obtain location information from a person’s phone. The beauty of this is that when you’re stopped or detained by a police officer, your phone shouldn’t be ratting you out if you have your phone’s location services turned off. Still, if law enforcement contacts your carrier for the same information, the mileage you take may vary depending on the provider you own and the state you live in.

For users who are concerned about their privacy rights when using a smartphone, you can turn off certain location services on your phone for a little more privacy. However, keep in mind that there are other ways for authorities to access location information by calling from your cell phone service provider, not directly from your device. In any case, on Android you need to go to the system settings menu of your device. Tap on Location Services and then you can change which location services are enabled or disabled.

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On iOS, users can prevent apps from accessing their location data by going to Settings, then Privacy, and then change which apps grant location data privileges.

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Even if you don’t use GPS features like Google Maps or GPS navigation, you can reveal your location information through mundane actions like taking a photo. If you allow your camera to have and store geolocation data along with the images you take, you can reveal where you are with the images you capture. On iOS you can turn it off under Location Services in the Privacy menu, on Android you can turn it on or off in your Camera app’s settings.

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If law enforcement contacts your cell phone provider instead, there isn’t much you can do to hide your location. Also, in light of a security situation with PRISM, you really shouldn’t hide any aspect of your life.