In a trailblazing decision that expands electronic privacy rights in New Jersey, the state Supreme Court ruled today that law enforcement agencies must get warrants if they want to track crime suspects by tracing the signals from their cell phones, reports the Newark Star-Ledger. “Cell phones are not meant to serve as tracking devices to locate their owners wherever they may be,” Chief Justice Stuart Rabner wrote in a 7-0 decision.
The court is the first in the country to impose such a ruling, and legal experts said the decision could ripple through other states wrestling with the collection and use of electronic data. Privacy advocates hailed the decision as a major victory. The case involved Thomas Earls, who was arrested on burglary charges in 2006. Without obtaining a warrant, police tracked down Earls with the help of his service provider, T-Mobile, which gave police his approximate location three times in one evening.