Supreme Court case may be most important in a generation for privacy, 1st Amendment

Supreme Court case may be most important in a generation for privacy, 1st Amendment

[Ed. – The concerns expressed in this opinion piece at the Guardian‘s “Comment is Free” are spot-on, and need to be taken seriously by every American.  It’s not possible to have our world of networked services without a third party — i.e., a service provider — tracking us.  But does that mean the government should have access to everything the third party “knows” about us? How do we define privacy and freedom of speech and association in a digital age?  My addendum: at some point, this question has to be removed from the courts and put where it belongs: in the legislature.]

The case, Carpenter v United States, arises out of the government’s prosecution of Timothy Carpenter for a series of armed robberies carried out in south-eastern Michigan and north-western Ohio several years ago. In the course of its investigation of the crimes, the government ordered Carpenter’s cellphone provider to turn over data it had collected relating to Carpenter’s movements. In response, the provider produced 186 pages listing every call that Carpenter had made over a 127-day period, as well as coordinates indicating where Carpenter had been at the beginning and end of each of those calls. …

The Carpenter case is the latest in a series of cases that have required the supreme court to consider the relevance of analog-era precedents to digital-age technologies. Although these cases were presented to the court as fourth amendment cases, the court was attentive to the implications of government surveillance for first amendment freedoms. …

Do “people reasonably expect that their movements will be recorded and aggregated in a manner that enables the government to ascertain, more or less at will, their political and religious beliefs [and] sexual habits?” Justice Sonia Sotomayor asked in her powerful concurrence.

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