If there's one consistent thread regarding cellphone privacy it's this: the courts are inconsistent. But the Senate may try to establish strong federal guidelines regarding warrants and digital communications on Thursday, when a committee discusses changes to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA).
The ECPA is being updated to clearly define how government agencies can monitor digital communications, especially in the form of email. In the past, the New York Times reports, courts have used the ECPA to permit warrantless surveillance of some cellphone data.
Some legal experts argue that a cellphone can be considered a "container" holding evidence that is not private, and therefore no warrant is needed. But as one Rhode Island judge suggests, cellphone data is more like a face-to-face conversation with a reasonable expectation of privacy, the NYTimes reports.
Another factor in the equation is a debate over who owns cellphone data. Police agencies argue citizens can't claim privacy over signals transmitted to a cellphone tower. But those transmissions often carry with them information on the user's whereabouts, something privacy advocates say is inherently private.
Via the New York Times