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U.S. Supreme Court Rules for Cell Phone Privacy Interests

Posted Friday, June 22, 2018 by Andrew Charles Huff

When the government wants to track an individual’s location through cell phone records over an extended period of time, they need to get a warrant, says the U.S. Supreme Court in a major ruling on privacy.

As most know, anyone can track your whereabouts at any time of the day with cell phone technology. The question answered by the Court today was “what limits should be placed on law enforcement to do this?”

Carpenter v. United States was a 2011 case involving an individual suspected of various crimes around town. Police went to the third-party telephone company and asked to get his transactional records from his cell phone in order to track his whereabouts. This information is data that pings off cell phone towers and then collected by these companies. The information obtained by police led to his conviction.

The 5-4 opinion was written by conservative Chief Justice John Roberts siding with the four most liberal justices. Justice Roberts found that cell phones are now a part of us and play a “pervasive and insistent part of daily life,” Roberts wrote. Information obtained from these records is still accessible to police, but with a warrant.

The ruling is a major victory for advocates of increased privacy rights who argued more protections were needed when it comes to the government obtaining information from a third party such as a cell phone company.

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