On Your Side Investigators: Lawmakers tackles cell phone tracking

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Your phone isn't just a phone anymore, it's also a tracking device. Police are dialing up the cell phone companies more and more, often asking for specific information - like a user's whereabouts or even a call log. Under current law, they do not need a search warrant.

The top cell phone companies revealed they'd responded to 1.3 million law enforcement demands for subscribers information. The On Your Side Investigators uncovered how Richmond, Chesterfield and Henrico County all use the tactic.

Republican delegate Bob Marshall says it's got to stop.

"Just keep stepping around this, like some people want to do too often, is to jeopardize your life and your liberty," said Marshall during a phone interview.

Marshall has introduced a bill that would require cell phones to be considered tracking devices. Police would need a warrant from a judge before phone companies hand over location data.

"Look, I'm not against obviously tracking some criminal suspect who they've identified, but to just start doing this for any reason, or no reason, is not playing by the rules. Now the rules may be inconvenient, but they are there for our safety," said Marshall.

NBC12 legal analyst Steven Benjamin has told us it's not clear a search warrant is needed to obtain cell phone information. He says, this is a prime example of how our technology has outpaced our laws.

"The more you permit police to use technology and invade our privacy, the more effective law enforcement will be. The question is, where do we draw the line?" asked Benjamin.

The Supreme Court has yet to weigh in on whether cellphone location data is protected by the constitution. Marshall's bill will go before the General Assembly in the upcoming session.

Copyright 2014 WWBT NBC12. All rights reserved