This is a little complicated, but read the article. Essentially, the government used cell phone location information gathered from cell phone usage to catch a couple of bank robbers. Bad guys that deserved to be in jail, to be sure. The men were caught and convicted. Since there was no warrant, the information gleaned just from cell call logs raised some questions about the right to privacy and the use of computer databases. The government’s position is summed up in this quote:
In that case, the Obama administration has argued that warrantless tracking is permitted because Americans enjoy no “reasonable expectation of privacy” in their–or at least their cell phones’–whereabouts. U.S. Department of Justice lawyers say that “a customer’s Fourth Amendment rights are not violated when the phone company reveals to the government its own records” that show where a mobile device placed and received calls.
Lovely. If your car has OnStar, or you use a mobile communications device like a cell phone, Blackberry, or IPhone, the information that puts you in a specific location is open for the government to use. This positioning data is good to about 50 yards, almost as accurate as a GPS. If they have a warrant, a reason to be searching you, then this is justified. To be able to just sift that information is going to be too tempting, though. They’ll tell us it it protects us against terrorism and crime.
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
–The 4th Amendment to the Constitution