Strong majority supports warrant requirement for cell phone data – 218 citizens, 467 responses

Jun 07, 2015

Earlier this month, the NH Senate passed HB 468, a bill that specifies that law enforcement officers in NH are required to get a warrant before installing GPS trackers or accessing cell phone location data, except in case of emergencies. On June 7th, the Live Free or Die Alliance (LFDA) put the issue to Facebook members, posing the question, “Should police need a warrant to access cell phone location data?”

A total of 87% of respondents answered the question either directly or with a concurrence, and of these a strong 95% majority supported requiring warrants to access cell phone data with only 5% opposed. Of the remaining respondents, a slim 7% opted to discuss the subject in broader terms while 6% commented on unrelated issues. In sum, 218 citizens participated in the discussion with a total of 467 responses. 

The overwhelming majority in favor of the bill argued that location data should be subject to Fourth Amendment protections against unlawful search and seizure. “This is an invasion of privacy. And a warrant should be necessary before this info can be obtained,” one commenter wrote. “Just because someone else owns the intellectual property behind the program or technology, it does not give the government permission to usurp the Fourth Amendment,” another respondent argued. 

Opponents of the law countered that it could interfere with time-sensitive investigations, putting lives at risk. “Law enforcement should not have to provide a warrant when they have probable cause… especially in a missing person or homicide case,” one commenter said. “If it helps law enforcement to do their job then let them do their job,” another respondent wrote. 

The small percentage of respondents addressing their comments to broader issues discussed whether the bill’s emergency provision should stand or debated wider issues related to data and privacy. “A public post assumes no expectation of privacy. A phone call does,” one commenter noted. “Even in an emergency cops can still get a warrant... it's not that hard,” a respondent said. 

Click here for the full Facebook discussion of this question. 

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