Few cell phone users know that mobile phone companies like AT&T, Verizon and Sprint can track the locations of cell phones in real time, thanks to small global positioning sensors (GPS) placed inside phones. They can also analyze how a call is routed through towers, to pinpoint a phone's location to an area the size of a city block. The feature was originally designed to help police and emergency personnel follow up on 911 calls, but the FBI and other law enforcement agencies have been obtaining more and more cell phone location records, without notifying the target or obtaining judicial warrants that establish probable cause. Cell phone companies started getting so many requests from law enforcement to trace cell phone data, that Sprint Nextel set up a dedicated Web site that allows law enforcement agencies to access people's cell phone location records directly from their desks -- although they must give passwords to long on, and provide valid court orders for non-emergency requests. Information about the increasing clandestine cell phone tracking by law enforcement emerged the same week that a Philadelphia couple filed a lawsuit against their son's school district in which they accused his high school of activating a Webcam embedded in their son's school-issued laptop computer and covertly photographing the 15 year-old at home. How did they discover the school was spying on their son? The suit states that on November 11, an assistant principal at the high school informed their son that he had been "engaged in improper behavior in his home," and, as evidence, showed him a photo taken from the Webcam embedded in his laptop.
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