New Technology Means Electronic Communications Increasingly Monitored in Texas, Nationwide

1213666_world_wide_web sxchu username elessar_x.jpgTechnology plays a large part in the everyday lives of most Americans. Too often, however, individuals fail to consider the myriad ways technology may be used to invade your expectation of privacy. For example, many people think their online communications and posts on social media website Facebook are private so long as their privacy settings are kept up to date. Instead, a computer is constantly scanning your chat conversations for criminal activity. If illegal conduct is suspected, a human will review your online interactions and contact police.

Similarly, an individual may claim to be in a different location than they really are, for a variety of reasons. Nevertheless, you, or at least your mobile phone, can always be found. Cellular telephone companies have the ability to use global positioning system software (GPS) or company towers to locate both smartphones and non-smart mobile phones. In fact, GPS software on most cellular telephones cannot be shut off by the user, even when the telephone is not connected to a mobile network. Federal and other investigators regularly obtain search warrants to view GPS information. In 2011, mobile telephone carriers responded to more than one million requests from law enforcement organizations for individual GPS and text message data.

A St. Louis U.S. Magistrate judge recently held that federal investigators could enter an individual’s GPS information into evidence despite being obtained without a search warrant. In this case, the Federal Bureau of Investigation placed a tracking device on a criminal suspect’s vehicle for about two months. The judge in the case allowed the information to be entered into evidence based upon the “reasonable suspicion” of investigators despite that the case appears to go against a recent Supreme Court decision which unanimously held it is unconstitutional to place a GPS tracking device on a suspect’s car without a search warrant.

Internet searches on websites such as Google are also increasingly being used to convict suspected criminals. The trouble with using technology to convict someone of a crime is the fact that although Google can tell authorities a search was performed using a specific IP address, the company cannot state with any level of certainty who actually performed the web search. This also holds true for many other technologies used by federal investigators to convict accused criminals.

Through new technology, progressively more federal agencies are violating an individual’s constitutional right to be free from illegal search and seizure. Additional constitutional rights and privacy guarantees may also be violated by federal investigators who are simply eager to convict. Unfortunately, even if you are innocent of a crime, the United States Justice Department has the ability to monitor your internet activity and charge you with a crime. If you were accused of a federal crime in the State of Texas, you should contact a knowledgeable criminal law attorney as soon as possible.

Anyone charged with federal crime in Texas needs an experienced federal criminal defense lawyer to protect their rights. If you were charged in a federal criminal case, you owe it to yourself to contact a skilled Texas lawyer today.

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Owner, Three Employees of Defunct Pharr, Texas Medical Supply Company Accused of Wire and Health Care Fraud, Texas Criminal Lawyer Blog, July 10, 2012
Texas Jury Convicts Puerto Rican Man of Trafficking Counterfeit Prescription Drugs through the Mail, Texas Criminal Lawyer Blog, June 28, 2012
Additional Resources:

It Isn’t Necessarily Big Brother, But Somebody Is Potentially Watching, Virtually All the Time, by Martha Neil, ABA Journal

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