Monday, October 12, 2009

NYPD tracking cell phone users

From Gotham City, comes this NY Daily News article:
The NYPD is amassing a database of cell phone users, instructing cops to log serial numbers from suspects' phones in hopes of connecting them to past or future crimes.

In the era of disposable, anonymous cell phones, the file could be a treasure-trove for detectives investigating drug rings and other criminal enterprises, police sources say.

"It's used to help build cases," one source said of the new initiative.

"It doesn't replace the human element, like debriefing prisoners, but it's another tool to use that we didn't have in the past."

A recent internal memo says that when cops make an arrest, they should remove the suspect's cell phone battery to avoid leakage - then jot down the International Mobile Equipment Identity number.

The IMEI number is registered with the service provider whenever a call is made.

And that data could allow a detective to match, for example, a cell phone used by one suspect to a phone used by another. ...

Read it here. Seems to me the NYPD's stated rationale for removing the cell phone's battery ("to avoid leakage") is merely a pretext to access the IMEI information without a warrant.

The easy way to defeat this potentially unlawful search and data collection effort, of course, is to simply get a new cell phone if you or your phone has ever been in NYPD custody. With the proliferation of cheap anonymous prepaid cell phones, that's an easy thing to do. And drug dealers won't exactly be hard pressed to pony up for a new smartphone.

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