Privacy SOS

What it might look like if your local police had access to your entire location history

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In 2012, the Department of Justice told a court that we have "no privacy interest" in information revealing our physical locations. Senator Ron Wyden has said that the NSA's authorities are "limitless," and has strongly implied that the federal government may already collect bulk location data on Americans. While that would be disastrous, it wouldn't come as a huge shock. After all, cell phone location information is metadata. The national security establishment tells us that we have no right to privacy in our metadata, and that its spies can harvest this information in bulk pursuant to section 215 of the USA Patriot Act.

What the NSA can do, it most likely does. And sure enough, a December, 2013 Washington Post story based off of documents released by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed the existence of a bulk location tracking program called CO-TRAVELER. The system analyzes about 5 billion cell phone location records per day, collecting and keeping "as many as it can." There may be other programs like it that haven't been disclosed.

What would it look like if the government collected this location data from your cell phone and analyzed it looking for clues about your private life? Who cares if the FBI, NSA, DEA, CIA, and your local police department keep tabs on your every movement? The ACLU put together the video embedded above to give you a taste of just how much power location information bestows to its holders.

Tell the government: get a warrant.

© 2021 ACLU of Massachusetts.