James P. Martin and Matthew P. Breuer
When the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) was passed in 1986, cellular telephone was a fledgling industry. At the time, cellular telephones were mainly limited to car phones, due to the large batteries that powered the phone. Handheld models were extremely expensive, quite large by today’s standards, and did little beyond the ability to make a call to a single person at a time. Very few people actually used the new technology due to the cost.
Today, cellular phone use is pervasive. Units are small enough to take everywhere, and many people now solely use a cell phone and no longer maintain a traditional wired home telephone. Additionally, phones have been joined by an array of devices that utilize the cellular data network connectivity, including portable computers, smartphones, tablets, and wireless hot spots. Hot spot devices connect to the cellular data network and provide wifi access to nearby digital devices.
Cell phones and smartphones are instances of new technologies that are the center of litigation that is being decided based on old laws; they are on the “bleeding edge” of litigation. Courts often interpret slight nuances in cases quite differently.
Cell Tower Data and Location Information
Cellular service is called cellular because a geographic area is broken into a number of overlapping cells; each cell is served by a cellular tower. A digital device connects to the cellular ...