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Government Must Reveal Cellphone Tracking, Court Rules

The federal government must release information about how and when it uses cellphone data to track criminal suspects, a U.S. appeals court ruled on Tuesday, saying the public's interest outweighs any privacy concerns, CNN reports.

The American Civil Liberties Union declared victory in the decision, one of several involving technology such as GPS that can be used to track the movements of people using smartphones, laptop computers and other devices.

"The disclosure sought by the plaintiffs would inform this ongoing public policy discussion by shedding light on the scope and effectiveness of cellphone tracking as a law enforcement tool," the three-judge District of Columbia panel said in a 35-page ruling. "It would, for example, provide information about the kinds of crimes the government uses cell phone tracking data to investigate."

"I highly doubt that the 90 percent of Americans who carry cellphones thought that when they got cellphone service they were giving up their privacy in their movements," Catherine Crump, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union who argued the case, was quoted by Reuters as saying.

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