Law abiding citizens should be very concerned, law enforcement obtaining your personal information without warrant

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fcc, ocala post, ocala news, personal information

For years, law enforcement has been obtaining your private and personal information from third-party vendors without a warrant.

Typically, if a law enforcement agency were to go directly to the source, such as a cell phone carrier like T-Mobile, or Facebook, they would be required to have a court order to do so. However, law enforcement has been skirting around the warrant by using third-party vendors.

On April 29, 2024, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) filed a lawsuit for $200 million against T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and other providers for illegally selling personal information including customer location to third-party vendors.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW

According to the FCC, multiple sheriff’s offices in Florida and other states have used these third parties to illegally obtain personal data.

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd has been open about obtaining the information and says that it’s a useful tool when working on an investigation.

In 2016, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office was in talks with a developer to secretly have a script written that would illegally “scrape” personal information from social media and other platforms.

To protect Floridians from such invasive tactics, Congress is working on an initiative dubbed “The Fourth Amendment is Not for Sale” and has introduced H.R. 4639.

Summary of the Bill

“H.R. 4639 would prohibit law enforcement and intelligence agencies from purchasing personal information about customers or subscribers of electronic and remote computing service providers (for example, social media, cell phone, email, and cloud-computing companies) from a third party. Current law prohibits those entities from disclosing such information, which includes names, addresses, phone numbers, and locations, directly to government agencies without a court order. However, those companies are permitted to voluntarily disclose such information to third parties, which can then provide it to the government. H.R. 4639 would require a law enforcement or intelligence agency to obtain a court order before acquiring customer or subscriber information from a third party. Under the bill, any information purchased from a third party would be inadmissible as evidence in court.”

Supporters of the bill say that Florida residents must vote “Yes” if they want to prohibit government agencies from illegally acquiring their personal information.

According to law enforcement, the information is only used against those who break the law, however, that is a false statement. Third parties say the illegal information is sold mostly in bulk to those willing to pay for it. Ironically, it is the law breaking the law to obtain the information.

In 2020, Ocala Post reported a story in which a Gainesville, FL man, Zachary McCoy, was falsely accused of a crime after the Gainesville Police Department had illegally obtained his information from a third party. The police department used his Google location to track the man to an area where burglaries had been occurring. As it turned out, the man had only been riding his bike in the vicinity.

According to reports, it was Google who called McCoy and told him that authorities had obtained his information and were asking questions. McCoy’s attorney said that he was able to get ahead of the police because Google did the right thing by tipping off McCoy. He said otherwise, McCoy might have been railroaded.

Attornies say there have been hundreds of cases in Florida where law enforcement has attempted to arrest someone based on location information that had been purchased from a third party.

At that time, McCoy said, “I had not done anything wrong and I was hit with a really deep fear knowing that police had the ability to abuse their power.”

Those who sponsored bill H.R. 4639 say that law enforcement and other government agencies are supposed to follow the law and protect the Fourth Amendment, not violate it. Supporters say that law enforcement is trying to mislead the public by telling them that the bill hurts victims, when, in fact, it protects innocent people from becoming victims of corrupt government.

Sheriff Judd sees it differently.

He said, “The ‘Fourth Amendment is not for Sale Act’ is another step in the wrong direction. If this bill passes, it will allow crime to go UP and our ability to arrest bad guys to go down. Law enforcement officers need every tool available – and quickly – when they are searching for criminals and trying to find missing people. When it comes to keeping people safe, time is always of the essence. Urge your local congressmen and women to vote against this bill, and help law enforcement continue to fight crime and keep people safe.”

In 2013, Google demanded that government officials in the White House reform the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) by making it mandatory for the government to require a warrant prior to reading citizen’s e-mails and using tracking information.

Whichever way you fall, remember to vote.

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