WHAT OTHERS SAY: Missouri courts should uphold cellphone tracking

Tuesday, September 4, 2012 | 7:25 p.m. CDT

For Kelsey Smith, help came too late.

For other Missourians, we ask the courts to uphold a law that can save lives.

Missouri became the eighth state to enact a measure known as "Kelsey's law." The 18-year-old woman was abducted in Overland, Kan., in 2007. Her body was found four days later — after the cellphone company cooperated with police and provided information.

Missouri legislators passed a law this year that requires phone companies to help law enforcement when there is danger of death or serious physical injuries. The companies are required to help track cellphone signals or to ping a phone's location in such cases.

The value of this data, especially when provided in a timely matter, is immeasurable in situations such as a kidnapping or child abduction.

However, Bolivar resident Mary Hopwood has filed a lawsuit claiming the law violates privacy standards. The suit claims Missouri's law conflicts with federal provisions that grant greater discretion to phone companies in providing the needed information.

Privacy is a valid concern in the information age. But it's worth noting that many users willingly download apps to their smartphones that give away private data. The same technology that is used to target advertising should be available to law enforcement to use to prevent murder or sexual assault.

Law enforcement has a responsibility to employ the measures only in the cases outlined by law. This is not a policy addressing unlikely scenarios; Smith's body was recovered in Missouri, proof that the unthinkable happens here.

When parents and families find themselves desperately seeking help, they should find that the law is on their side.

Copyright St. Joseph News Press. Distributed by The Associated Press.

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