Is cellphone tracking by law enforcement legal?

ATLANTA — Your cellphone could be tracking and noting pretty much every move you make.

Cellphones are able to do this because they connect to nearby cell towers. The towers connect with your phone and are able to triangulate where the cellphone is in real time.

Willis McDonald investigates cyber threats for companies. McDonald said that whenever you pass a cell tower, your phone connects. Once connected, the tower sends out a signal.

For example, as suspect Robert Long traveled down Interstate 75, police could see pretty much exactly where he was.


“As well as using GPS coordinates from the device itself to track where the phone is headed,” McDonald said.

There are rules against law enforcement being able to track your whereabouts through cellphones and cell towers.

However, in cases like Long’s, there are exceptions. Law enforcement can track someone through their phone if that person poses an imminent threat to others.

Long was already suspected of killing eight people as he traveled down the interstate.

“In the normal situation, you are not going to be able to get access to these records or at least law enforcement wouldn’t have direct access to these tools or utilities without a warrant in place,” McDonald said.