ALBUQUERQUE, NM (KRQE) - The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico on Wednesday requested information regarding the Albuquerque Police Department's tracking of cell phone data.
"The attempt is to make sure New Mexicans are not subject to unwarranted tracking of location in the state," said Peter Simonson, Executive Director of ACLU-NM. "If you're traveling around the city, if you're getting pharmaceuticals, if you're visiting a reproductive health clinic, for example, seeking medical care, no one else deserves to know that information but you."
APD will have fifteen days to turn over the following information under the Freedom Of Information Act:
- Whether APD law enforcement agents demonstrate probable cause and obtain a warrant to access cell phone location data
- Statistics on how frequently APD is obtaining cell phone location data
- How much money APD is spending tracking cell phones
- Other policies and procedures used for acquiring location data
Simonson said the ACLU isn't accusing APD of any wrongdoing, but he just wants to make sure the privacy of average citizens is protected.
"If you're not a criminal suspect, the police shouldn't simply be fishing for data about what people are doing," said Simonson. "We believe it represents a genuine threat to the First Amendment and free speech activity."
If police are tracking suspected criminals through their cell phones, Simonson said officers should go through the appropriate steps and obtain a warrant first.
Simonson said the ACLU is probing APD because it claims the department has a history of "unlawful surveillance." In March 2003, the ACLU filed a lawsuit against APD for conducting surveillance on local activists who were organizing an anti-war protest.
"These people had done nothing else but participate in the political process," said Simonson.
Simonson said this sort of surveillance is now easier because of cell phones. He said the ACLU wants to make sure innocent people aren't being tracked for no reason.
"Crime is really the trigger," said Simonson. "It shouldn't be anything else, what we think, what we believe or what we say."
APD and city officials had no comment on Wednesday on whether the department tracks cell phone location data of average citizens. APD spokeswoman Sgt. Trish Hoffman said the department will respond to the ACLU's information request within the allotted fifteen days.
APD is just one of 366 law enforcement agencies in 30 states that will need to turn over such records to the ACLU.
Simonson said more agencies in New Mexico may be required to submit phone tracking data if the ACLU finds abuses within APD.
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