New Orleans Sheriff’s Office Tracked Cellphones Absent Warrants
by Chad Marks
Securus Technologies, one of the leading providers of phone-messaging services for correctional facilities, reportedly captured thousands of coordinates showing cellphone locations for clients absent a warrant. Through Securus, both Jefferson and Orleans Parish sheriff’s offices were able to capture data used for criminal investigations, The Appeal reports.
Contracts showed that Securus gave its clients access to location data for cellphones that made or received calls from correctional facilities. As part of the contract, Securus also provided location data regardless of whether or not the phone connected with a call at the prisons.
In circumventing the Fourth Amendment, all the sheriff’s office had to do was provide a technology company with the cellphone number. In return, Securus handed over the phones’ location data.
In mid-2018, Securus disabled the technology that intruded upon citizens’ cellphone data. Surprisingly, the dismantling occurred just a few short weeks before the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that historical cell-site location information is protected by the Fourth Amendment. In that case, Carpenter v. United States, 138 S. Ct. 2206 (2018), the Court made it clear that acquisition of such data constitutes a search under the Fourth Amendment and that a warrant is necessary to obtain the data.
Securus provided a caveat in its contracts that it made “no representation or warranty as to the legality” of the technology’s use. Apparently, Securus attempted to protect itself in the event its actions of warrantless intrusion were discovered.
Katie Schwartzmann, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union’s Louisiana office, commented, “with such powerful technology, come substantial government responsibility to build out safeguards, and it sounds like that didn’t happen here.”
An attorney for the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s office, Blake Arcuri, said the agency did not get a chance to use the technology before it was disabled. However, the sheriff’s office did admit its contract was amended in March 2018 to add the location data service. Captain Jason Rivarde from the Parish Sheriff’s Office explained they secured the cellphone location data through Securus because it was easier than going to the service providers of cellphone users.
Once technology tracks citizens, serious constitutional concerns are triggered. Had it not been for the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Carpenter, it is possible Securus might have reignited its data retrieving technology. As technology increases, citizens should be aware that their movements might just be tracked by companies like Securus and turned over to the government.