Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The two men who pointed a gun at the owner of a Lakewood convenience store and emptied the cash register Dec. 28 took one item too many as they fled: the victim's iPhone.

By the following day, a team of Lakewood and Denver cops had one of the suspects in custody after AT&T sent investigators updates every 15 minutes showing the device's location in a 29th Avenue apartment, according to police documents.

As cellphone tracking becomes a more effective and relied-upon step in building and bolstering criminal cases, the practice has pitted law enforcement seeking effective ways to solve cases against privacy advocates worried about turning the ever-present cellphone against its owner.

At the heart of the debate is how police and prosecutors obtain information on a cell user's whereabouts. Should they be required, for example, to show fact-based probable cause, the standard that must be met to obtain a search warrant, to gather that information from service providers — or meet some lower standard?