Supreme Court says warrant necessary for phone location

The Supreme Court of the United States has finally ruled in favor of digital privacy. On Friday, in a 5-4 decision the judges stated that police departments require warrants for the purpose of gathering data of a phone location as evidence for the trails. This was basically reversed and remanded a decision by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. The first case regarding data of phone location which the Supreme Court of the United States has ruled on is Carpenter V. This was a landmark decision about how law enforcement agencies can use technology when they form cases. The court heard related arguments of this particular case on the 29th of November. The dispute dates back to a robbery that took place in Detroit in 2011 after which the police department collected data of phone location of several months from phone a provider of Timothy Carpenter. Surprisingly, the police pulled together of about 12,898 different locations from Carpenter, over a time period of 127 days.

The privacy and legal concern was that the police department collected the digital footprints of Carpenter of about four months of time and that was without a warrant. A judge of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals mentioned that the data of a mobile phones location is not protected by the Fourth Amendment which prohibits unreasonable search and seizure thereby not requiring a warrant. In the ruling of the Supreme Court, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that searches of the phones location data of Carpenter was considered a Fourth Amendment search.

Chief Justice John Roberts also wrote that the position of the Government fails to contend with seismic shifts in digital technology which is why it was possible for the tracking of not only the location of Carpenter but also of all others and not for a short period of time but for a number of years. Roberts also mentioned that allowing the government to access historical GPS data violates the Fourth Amendment protections of Carpenter and the expectation of privacy, by providing law enforcement with a detailed record of his whereabouts. In addition to this, Roberts said that historical GPS data presents a much more privacy risk as compared to real time GPS monitoring. The attorneys of Carpenter argued that data of a mobile phone locations is quite sensitive in nature and hence should be protected under the Fourth Amendment.

January 16, 2022 - 03:49
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