It's a scary thing to think about, but in most cases the police don't need a warrant to track your cellphone.
Laws vary from state to state, but Massachusetts is currently the only state that requires authorities to have a warrant before accessing all cell-site location data, past or present. 12 additional states have open cases regarding the issue, but there isn't much regulation overall.
That's why the American Civil Liberties (ACLU) created an interactive map to document cellphone tracking laws throughout the country.
According to the map, states with minimal regulation include: Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia. In these states, authorities aren't required to have a warrant to track an individual's cellphone.
Even more, these southern states are currently permitted to use "StingRay" devices to track people and collect data from their cellphones. StingRays are suitcase-sized devices that trick cellular phones into believing they're a cell tower.
Police officials know this is a questionable tactic for receiving information about a person's whereabouts. In fact, a police officer in Florida was recently caught telling his coworkers how to hide the source of StingRay information by labeling it as a "confidential source." This would ensure that the evidence was permissible in court.
States like Colorado, Pennsylvania and Virginia have minimal laws of protection in place. And others like New Mexico, Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Wyoming and Iowa have no binding authority.
Several other states are still deciding. These include Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Ohio, Kentucky and Arizona.
"Location records can reveal an enormous amount of information about a person, especially with the proliferation of smartphones that constantly track our whereabouts," the ACLU says. "Because privacy laws haven't kept up with the advances of technology, police have long claimed the authority to access this information from cellphone companies without warrants."
What's the big deal? Well, earlier this year a police officer in Arkansas was accused of trying to hack a citizen's computer. This certainly isn't representation of all law enforcement officials. But it is an example of what can happen when information falls into the wrong hands.
What do you think? Should authorities be required to obtain a warrant before accessing this information, or do you think they're within their rights? Let us know in the comments.