Supreme Court Decides Against Warrantless Location Searches in a Major Privacy Decision - the Verge
In a major decision on privacy in the digital age, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 today that police must generally obtain a warrant to seize cellphone tower location records.
The case, Carpenter v. United States, centered on whether there was a reasonable expectation of privacy when location records were held by a third party, like a phone carrier, and was closely watched for its Fourth Amendment implications.
The court ruled 5-4
“Given the unique nature of cell phone location records, the fact that the information is held by a third party does not by itself overcome the user’s claim to Fourth Amendment protection,” the majority opinion, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, reads. Location information obtained by police should generally be considered a search, and law enforcement should have to reach a probable cause standard to obtain those records, the court ruled.
June 22, 2018
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court ruled today that the government needs a warrant to access a person’s cellphone location history.
In the case, Carpenter v. United States, the American Civil Liberties Union represents a man who had months of his cellphone location information turned over to law enforcement without a warrant.
The court found in a 5 to 4 decision that obtaining such information is a search under the Fourth Amendment and that a warrant from a judge based on probable cause is required.
“This is a groundbreaking victory for Americans’ privacy rights in the digital age,” said ACLU attorney Nathan Freed Wessler, who argued the case before the court last November. “The Supreme Court has given privacy law an update that it has badly needed for many years, finally bringing it in line with the realities of modern life. The government can no longer claim that the mere act of using technology eliminates the Fourth Amendment’s protections. Today’s decision rightly recognizes the need to protect the highly sensitive location data from our cell phones, but it also provides a path forward for safeguarding other sensitive digital information in future cases — from our emails, smart home appliances, and technology that is yet to be invented.”