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Legal concerns rise along with the growth of high-tech spying

It’s certainly not hard to understand the concerns of a growing number of Americans, constitutional scholars and privacy advocates regarding the government’s increasing use of technology to track individuals and note their activities.

Following is a troublesome scenario that underscores why such concerns are being expressed by a growing band of critics across the country.

Federal and state law enforcement agencies are with increasing frequency availing themselves of cutting-edge technology that allows them, as a recent media article states, to “tap into cellphone data in real time.”

The catch: Even when police departments and other agencies allege that they are pursuing only a single person and targeting a discrete federal crime or unlawful state activity, their surveillance using highly sophisticated and constantly evolving techniques is blanket-like.

In other words, it allows them to capture the personal information of thousands of untargeted persons at the same time.

That ability to gather sweeping amounts of material on persons not specifically being targeted for criminal activity worries many Missouri residents and other Americans across the country. Cited concerns focus most centrally on the erosion of privacy and on the collection of potentially damaging information without probable cause in the first instance. Gathering such data absent a warrant raises questions implicating the Fourth Amendment and unconstitutional search and seizure.

“You see incredible potential for abuses,” says an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union commenting on the use of high-tech data gathering by authorities, especially local government and police agencies.

“We have to be careful,” says U.S. Rep Dennis Ross (R-Fla.), one congressman who is seeking legal clarification of privacy expectations regarding cellphones.

He adds that, “More and more, we’re seeing an invasion of what we would expect to be private parts of our lives.”

Source: USA TODAY, "Cellphone data spying: It's not just the NSA," John Kelly, Dec. 8, 2013

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