Supreme Court to decide on cellular tracking

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The Supreme Court announced Monday it will hear a case that could have a big impact on how law enforcement can track people's cell phones.

The high court will decide whether or not law enforcement need a search warrant in order to find someone, or track their whereabouts, using their cell phones.

Right now, that's mostly done with just a lower-level court order that does not require probable cause.

In a case that will go before the Supreme Court, the defendant's attorneys with the ACLU argue the court order isn't enough and that it violates the constitution because a search warrant should be necessary.

In recent years, the Supreme Court has found our cell phones have great privacy protections.

Law enforcement have a couple of ways to track someone's cell phone. The most common is to request information from the cell phone carriers. When you use your phone, you send a signal to the cell towers, and that data can be used to triangulate your location.

The other way to determine someone's location is with the controversial Stingray machine. It mimics a cell tower and tricks your phone into sharing its location.

2 On Your Side has reported the Erie County Sheriff's Office uses a stingray without getting search warrants. Sheriff Tim Howard told reporter Michael Wooten he'll do whatever the law requires. He's been hoping the high court would settle this once and for all.

"Whatever the rules are, make them clear so we know what to comply with, but don't criticize us for not following rules that don't exist." Sheriff Howard said.

Oral arguments for the case are scheduled for this fall.

© 2017 WGRZ-TV


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