Supreme Court rules warrants necessary to track phone locations

Supreme Court rules warrants necessary to track phone locations

[Ed. – That’s big.  Law enforcement can still get other info about your phone calls without a warrant, but this ruling may actually become a wedge in the door on that.  The principle argued by the majority is that cumulative historical info on your whereabouts is intrusive and should have 4A protection.]

In a 5-4 decision on Friday, the justices said police need warrants to gather phone location data as evidence for trials. That reversed and remanded a decision by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

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. The court heard arguments in the case on Nov. 29.

The dispute dates back to a 2011 robbery in Detroit, after which police gathered months of phone location data from Timothy Carpenter’s phone provider. They pulled together 12,898 different locations from Carpenter, over 127 days.

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The legal and privacy concern was that police gathered the four months’ worth of Carpenter’s digital footprints without a warrant.

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