In major win for privacy, U.S. Supreme Court says warrant required for phone location data

“The US Supreme Court has ruled in favor of digital privacy,” Alfred Ng writes for CNET. “In a 5-4 decision on Friday the justices decided that police need warrants to gather phone location data as evidence for trials. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the Sixth Circuit court’s decision.”

Carpenter v. United States is the first case about phone location data that the Supreme Court has ruled on. That makes it a landmark decision regarding how law enforcement agencies can use technology as they build cases,” Ng writes. “A Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals judge ruled that cellphone location data is not protected by the Fourth Amendment, which forbids unreasonable search and seizure, and therefore didn’t require a warrant. In the Supreme Court’s ruling, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that the government’s searches of Carpenter’s phone records were considered a Fourth Amendment search. ‘The Government’s position fails to contend with the seismic shifts in digital technology that made possible the tracking of not only Carpenter’s location but also everyone else’s, not for a short period but for years and years,’ he wrote. Roberts pointed out that allowing government access to historical GPS data infringes on Carpenter’s Fourth Amendment protections and expectation of privacy, by providing law enforcement with an ‘all-encompassing record’ of his whereabouts. He added that historical GPS data presents an ‘even greater privacy risk'” than real-time GPS monitoring.”

“‘This is a groundbreaking victory for Americans’ privacy rights in the digital age,’ ACLU attorney Nathan Freed Wessler, who argued the case, said in a statement. ‘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,'” Ng writes. “Before the trial took place, major tech companies, including Apple, Facebook and Google, filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the Supreme Court, urging the justices to make it harder for law enforcement officials to obtain individuals’ data without a warrant.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: While we laud the victory, we’re concerned that four U.S. Supreme Court Justices could be so myopic as to wipe their asses with the Fourth Amendment.

The majority consisted of Chief Justice John Roberts along with Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan. The dissenters were Kennedy, Thomas, Alito, and Gorsuch.


  1. Looks like Trump’s boy Gorsuck wanted to let the government have their way with us. If it wasn’t for Barack Obama’s two stellar Supreme Court picks, we’d be screwed right now. Those are two Obama-era victories for America that Orange Mussolini can’t reverse.

    1. D too for the juvi comment. Way to throw a bone to your man that liked the Patriot Act! “Orange Mussolini” is good practice for your hyperbolic training, but let’s seek a bit of persuasive nuance next time?

          1. John Dingler, the progressive scatalogical fuqwhit exposes he’s a liberat turde who should hang his head in absolute shame and shove his paintbrush up his nostril, hard, to do us all a major favor.

  2. Here’s something to ponder: From what I read, I came up with two issues: Freedom of Movement and the 4th. The Constitution’s Privileges and Immunities Clause basically states that a person is free to move about anywhere – including getting into and out of any state. However, upon further reading, I did not notice any interstate movement in the Carpenter case.

    I do not believe that law enforcement hindered any of Carpenter’s movement. All they did was observed and tracked his movements (electronically) via the cell tower owned by the cell providers. Let’s face it, when we step out of our homes, our expectation of privacy is essentially zero because you are now in the public square. The records that the law enforcement were looking at were not Carpenter’s records, per say. They were the cell company’s records, provided by the company. In essence, the records belong to the cell provider, not Carpenter. So, from a 4th perspective, I just don’t see how this applies.

    I’m just an average person, not a lawyer by any means. And, I don’t even play one on tv. Any lawyers out there care to expound on this?

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