Court Blocks Obama From Spying On Cell Phones, E-mail

In separate rulings, US federal courts have blocked attempts from the Obama administration to obtain information on cell phone users, and access e-mail from an ISP, without a warrant.

The US 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday that the Justice Department cannot get a user’s location from the towers cell phones communicate without a warrant, reports Wired.com. Most cell phone companies maintain information on what towers a call connects to at the beginning and end of a call for 18 months. Raw Story reports the Justice Department argued it does not need a search warrant to access such data because it is “essentially a conversation made in a public place.”

The ruling follows a Tuesday decision from the 6th US Circuit Court of Appeals that the government must get a court-issued warrant before an Internet Service Provider (ISP) hands over access to a user’s e-mail. The decision covers Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee, reports Wired.com, but privacy attorney Kevin Bankston believes ISPs across the country will comply with the ruling.

The Obama administration is also looking to have the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit reverse its August ruling requiring court warrants to affix GPS devices to vehicles to track their every move. The administration said Americans should expect no privacy “in the totality of his or her movements in public places.”

The appellate court’s answer is pending.

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