SCOTUS Protects Fourth Amendment: Police Need A Warrant To Access Your Phone Data

SCOTUS Protects Fourth Amendment: Police Need A Warrant To Access Your Phone Data

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At a time when the Fourth Amendment, which bars unreasonable searches, is particularly vulnerable, it is especially nice to see at last one win in the area of privacy in the digital age. The Supreme Court made a ruling in Carpenter v. United States on Friday that police will need a warrant to track your cell phone location, something NPR calls a “major privacy win.”

“We decline to grant the state unrestricted access to a wireless carrier’s database of physical location information,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote for the majority.

Justice Roberts compared the tracking information on cell phones to electronic ankle-bracelet monitoring devices and decided that a judge would have to find probable cause before police could access that kind of information.

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

Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, and Anthony Kennedy each filed their own separate dissents totaling 120 pages, but the Supreme Court has recently made similar rulings protecting the Fourth Amendment.

In United States v. Jones, The SCOTUS limited the police’s access to GPS devices, and in Riley v, California, the SCOTUS required police to have a warrant to search cellphones.

The SCOTUS opinion, in this case, is limited to cell-site location data only, not to real-time cell tower data.

See more in the video below:


Featured image: Screenshot via YouTube