The Supreme Court will soon take a look at whether or not your cellphone’s cell phone data is deserving of protection. It has been a great tool for law enforcement, but it is not a real-time tracker like you see in NCIS and other TV shows. In the past, third-party data has not been protected. Is that about to change?
As Written By Kevin Daley for the Daily Caller:
The Supreme Court may soon decide whether the Constitution protects cell tower data from police seizure without a warrant, affording the justices the chance to revisit one of the most controversial tenets of Fourth Amendment law.
Cell site data has become integral to criminal prosecutions because it allows law enforcement to seize location data from a suspect’s cellphone without a warrant. This information allows police to pinpoint a criminal suspect’s location at a given moment in time (cell site data does not allow for real-time tracking, however.) A 2016 AT&T report shows the company received over 50,000 requests for historical cell site data from police agencies.
A legal theory known as the third party doctrine the Supreme Court first announced in Smith v. Maryland in 1979 allows police to obtain records shared or maintained by third parties without a warrant. According to the doctrine’s reasoning, individuals relinquish their expectation of privacy when they agree to share certain records with a third party, like a phone company, bank, or internet service provider. Since telecommunications firms maintain cell site data, prosecutors argue that individuals should not expect the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unwarranted searches and seizures, to protect this information.
The federal courts have largely vindicated that view. One panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that government seizure of cell-site data without a warrant is unconstitutional, though that ruling was later overturned on review. The 3rd, 6th, and 7th U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals have……
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