Supreme Court rules that warrants are required for cell phone location data

Law Enforcement Need Warrant To Gain Access To Cell Phone Data

cell phone law enforcement

“When the government tracks the location of a cell phone it achieves near perfect surveillance, as if it had attached an ankle monitor to the phone’s user”

A recent Supreme Court ruling limits the ability of law enforcement to obtain cell phone data that tracks the past locations of criminal suspects without a search warrant. The Court stated that police need a court approved warrant to get access to cell phone data that tracked the previous locations of a suspect.

Timothy Carpenter was convicted of several armed robberies in Ohio and Michigan with the help of past cell phone location data that linked him to the crime scenes. Justice Roberts’ opinion stated “We decline to grant the state unrestricted access to a wireless carriers’ database of physical location information”.

Ruling In Unrestricted Cell Phone Data Access Protects Privacy For Individuals And Is A Blow To Law Enforcement Surveilance

This ruling is a victory for individual privacy rights during a time when there is an increased concern over surveillance procedures of law enforcement and other intelligence agencies.

Justice Roberts further opined “that a cell phone is almost a feature of human anatomy and that a cell phone faithfully follows its owner beyond public thoroughfares and into private residences, doctors’ offices, political headquarters and other potentially revealing locales”.

As a result he said “when the government tracks the location of a cell phone it achieves near perfect surveillance, as if it had attached an ankle monitor to the phone’s user”. (Carpenter v. United States).

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