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ACLU Applauds Virginia Bill Restricting Warrantless Cell Phone Tracking

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Virginia police now need a warrant to live track someone's cell phone.
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Virginia police now need a warrant to live track someone's cell phone.

Virginia Del. Bob Marshall (R-Loudoun) and the Virginia ACLU are on the same side of a new law that limits how far police can go when tracking people. Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed the cell phone-tracking bill, which was sponsored by Marshall.

A smartphone is often one's link to business and social life. It’s a remote-control, mobile gaming device, and a GPS when lost. The latter is also how law enforcement can know a person’s every move.

Prior to this law, without someone’s knowledge and without a warrant, police could hone in on his location. Marshall says it’s alarming that many people who don't think they're doing anything wrong are either oblivious or just don't care that law enforcement has that capability and has been using it.

"There are so many federal laws and regulations that end up making innocent things into felonies — Mother Teresa could be convicted of something," Marshall says. "The bill that I authored says police have to have a warrant to go do live tracking cell phone. We have an exception for an emergency like if a child has a cell phone and the child is lost."

The state ACLU applauds the new law, but says more needs to be done. Law enforcement can still see where people were in the past, including political rallies, doctor's offices, or anywhere someone wants to remain private.

The ACLU is urging both the governor and lawmakers to protect historic location information next.

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