Federal agents are using cellphones, tracking devices and other electronic devices to monitor people, a federal judge ruled Monday.
In a decision that could help shape how police and other law enforcement operate with the devices, U.S. District Judge William Orrick said that the federal government cannot force companies to share personal information with federal authorities.
The ruling comes after the FBI last year sought permission to use a tracking device mounted on a car owned by a man convicted of murder.
The FBI says the device was used in an investigation into drug trafficking and terrorism.
Orrick also said that he does not know whether the FBI uses a device to track individuals in cars.
A federal judge in New York ruled last month that the FBI cannot force Apple to help the government install a device on a suspect’s iPhone in a case that has drawn national attention.
The judge said that federal agents could use the device to monitor someone if they have a valid reason to believe they have been involved in a crime.
“In this case, they can use the tracking device to observe and to observe, but only if they know that the person they are monitoring has committed a crime,” Orrick wrote in a court order Monday.
Orrell’s ruling comes as the FBI is trying to win approval for an FBI-developed device to be mounted on cars that will allow it to track people when they are not in the car.
The judge wrote that there is “no reasonable basis” to think that the device would be used to monitor criminal activity.