The US Supreme Court has sided with consumers to expand digital privacy rights in a closely watched case revolving around location data. In the 5-4 decision, the court ruled that police must obtain a valid search warrant before obtaining location data on a suspect from cellular carriers. So, you do have some expectation of privacy while using your phone, despite the objections of law enforcement.
The case was brought by Michigan man Timothy Carpenter, who was convicted of a string of robberies at Radio Shack and T-Mobile stores. FBI agents obtained several months of location data from Carpenter’s cellular carrier, thus proving he was in the vicinity of all the robberies. This piece of evidence was key in his conviction, but Carpenter’s lawyers appealed on the grounds that law enforcement didn’t get a warrant for the location data. As a result, they argued that the evidence and conviction should be thrown out.
Lower courts ruled against Carpenter, but the Supreme Court found that law enforcement does need a warrant to access mobile location information. Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the court’s four left-leaning Justices to secure the privacy win. In his majority opinion, Roberts suggests that cell phones have become almost a “feature of human anatomy.” Your phone goes everywhere that you go, so providing unfettered access to location data from that phone to police is a violation of Fourth Amendment protections. It would be no different than attaching an ankle monitor to the suspect.
The basis for past rulings was a 38-year-old Supreme Court case that found people didn’t have a reasonable expectation that their phone call records would be kept private because they were retained for billing purposes. Could that same logic apply to your location? The Justice Department argued in the case that your location information is not private because your carrier is already collecting it. Network-level location data isn’t as accurate as GPS, but it’s necessary for the carrier to ensure you’re connected to the right tower to place calls and access data.
Lower courts accepted the Justice Department’s rationale, but the Supreme Court has had the final word. Police will now need to obtain a warrant before getting location data from your mobile carrier. The court has also ruled in recent years that police need a warrant to search through your phone or attach a GPS tracking device to your vehicle. If you’re worried about privacy, things are moving in the right direction.
Software Cheat May Have Helped Mercedes-Benz Pass US Emissions Rules
Reports say Mercedes-Benz diesels stopped cleansing the exhaust after 21 miles. The cars also recognized emissions tests and went to full-clean mode.
Google Frees Up Android Device Makers to Comply with EU Rulings
In the EU, device makers will have more freedom in the way they use and license Android from Google, but they'll also have to pay higher fees.
In Violation of FCC Rules, Verizon Is SIM-locking the Google Pixel 3
The Pixel 3 and 3 XL appear to be the very first Verizon phones subject to its new, murky SIM locking policy. If you buy a Verizon Pixel, it's really only going to work on Verizon.
The FCC Has Been Accused of Colluding With Telcos to Rig 5G Rules
The head of the House Commerce Committee has accused the FCC of collaborating with cellular carriers to game the US court system and move cases into friendlier districts.