Mapping out the Rosen Docket
Federal prosecutors in D.C. typically provide notice to a person after receiving court approval to track them with geolocation data. However, after obtaining a warrant to search journalist James Rosen's Gmail account in May 2010, the government argued it did not have any obligation to provide the same notice to the customer/subscriber when it comes to email and ultimately won. The difference comes down to the different provisions under ECPA and other procedural rules under which the government obtains warrants for the different types of information. Check out the ACLU's post for an overview, or this link for my summary of the arguments contained in the recently unsealed documents. Keep in mind that the issue here is the ECPA language applied to the government's disclosure obligations, not the service provider's, although the latter is often prohibited from giving the user notice.