Cell Phone Data Monitoring

In the past few months, let alone years, the power and capabilities of cell phones has grown exponentially.  Only a few years ago cell phones were used for nothing but making simple phone calls.  Today’s smart phones are miniature computers.  These advancements are revolutionary but not always in the positive manner that most people think.  Much like the slew of computer viruses and tracking programs placed in computers, the increased processing power of cell phones is leading to the same type of problems that computers experience.

Persons who have e-mail, video, pictures, voicemail and any other type of electronic data stored on their cell phones have the same data storage issues as a computer:  privacy rights, viruses, malware and data theft.
Another issue that cannot be ignored with cell phones is the increased use of GPS (Global Positioning System). GPS allows the tracking of the movement of the phone.  If an employer gives and employee a company cell phone it has the capability to track their employee’s movements by monitoring their phones via the GPS technology in the phone.

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Employers can read texts on company phones

The court ruled that employers have the right to read employee’s text messages if they believe that workplace rules are being violated. Specifically, the court said that the police department has a legitimate reason to read to make sure that the city was not paying for extensive personal communication.

Sexting at work

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the City of Ontario’s police department’s audit of Quon’s text messages did not violate his Quon’s Fourth Amendment right to privacy. The court did not say that Quon had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the texts, but found that even if he did, the search did not violate the Fourth Amendment.

Warrantless cell phone tracking by police OK 

A federal court ruling says that warrantless cell phone tracking by police is legal.  The panel of judges found that law enforcement were within their legal right to track Skinner, an alleged drug trafficker, through his cell phone before they arrested him in 2006. Law enforcement used the GPS feature on Skinner’s phone to track his whereabouts and arrest him. The judges believe the police were simply leveraging the power of the technology the person of interest was using against that person.

Sexting in school

The Troy School District adopted a sexting policy that allows them to search student’s electronic devices if they suspect that the students are using them to sext. According to the ACLU schools can search someone’s belongings if they have reasonable suspicion of illegal activity.  The police need probable cause to conduct the same search.

Troy is adopting this policy because sexting is on the rise and according to a study done by the U-M SexLab, 43% of people aged 18-24 have sexted on their phones before. This is a serious problem because sexting can have serious consequences. In Michigan, youngsters who sext can get 20 years in prison for violating child pornography laws.  Also, a juvenile conviction for a sexual offense, like possessing explicit material, can be placed on the state’s sex offender registry.

Page last modified February 1, 2014