Cell phones once represented a sense of freedom. From their cars and various locations outside of their dwellings that once housed their landlines, callers could reach friends and family members. As technology grew more sophisticated, cell phone companies could pull more data as to what their customers were doing and where they were going.
The growing intrusiveness and declining lack of privacy have become a significant problem for consumers. Without their knowledge, their cellular providers began selling their personal information to marketers.
Apparently freedom that comes with cutting-edge technology has a cost. For those suspected of a crime, this purported anonymous data became fodder for investigations approved by a powerful government entity.
Controversial, If Not Unconstitutional Tactics
The Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigations unit (IRS CI) bought a subscription to access commercial databases that could locate cellphones. Culled from apps where users share their location and given the verbal go-ahead by government attorneys, agents began to search for criminal suspects. Once found, they would track their whereabouts.
A spokesman claimed that their focus was on “the most serious and flagrant violations of tax law” with a specific focus on “money laundering, cyber, drug and organized crime cases.” However, their initiative failed to reap any benefits, specifically locating targets of interest. With no reason to continue, the IRS CI let the subscription lapse.
The unsuccessful “strategy” was uncovered during a briefing between the IRS CI and a United States Senator.
The IRS is alone in employing these tactics. The Department of Homeland Security also uses cellphone data to track undocumented immigrants. While elected and appointed leaders say that the data from either search cannot be linked to specific people, cell phone locations can practically give away data on identities and places, particularly during evenings and overnights when a “target” is most likely at home.
Few years have seen as many threatening changes as 2020. One of those attacks seems to be focused on the Fourth Amendment, specifically protection from unreasonable searches and seizures.