Court Rules Cell Location Data Fair Game
The U.S. Court of Appeals has sided with the government and ruled that law enforcement can gather cell location records without first obtaining a warrant. The case involves a string of armed robberies that took place between 2010 and 2011. When caught, one suspect volunteered his cell phone. Police used that phone and the records within to ascertain the general location of other suspects. Cell location data is accurate between one-half and 2 miles. The other suspects claimed their Fourth Amendment rights were violated, as the police did not get a warrant before gathering those phone records. "Those records say nothing about the content of any calls. Instead the records include routing information, which the wireless providers gathered in the ordinary course of business," argued the appellate court. "Carriers necessarily track their customers' phones across different cell-site sectors to connect and maintain their customers' calls. And carriers keep records of these data to find weak spots in their network and to determine whether roaming charges apply, among other purposes. Thus, the cell-site data — like mailing addresses, phone numbers, and IP addresses — are information that facilitate personal communications, rather than part of the content of those communications themselves. The government's collection of business records containing these data therefore is not a search." The court's decision reflects that of two other cases that reached the same conclusion. The U.S. Supreme court has yet to weigh in on this issue, and likely won't until a fourth case involving similar arguments goes through the appeals process.
Supreme Court to Weigh Accessibility of Cell Location Data
Jun 5, 2017
The Supreme Court today said it will hear a case regarding whether or not law enforcement can access certain types of cell location data without a warrant. As it stands today, the government does not need to get a warrant when seeking location and other information held by phone companies.
Supreme Court Weighing Warrants for Cell Phone Location
Nov 29, 2017
The Supreme Court today heard a case regarding whether or not law enforcement can access certain types of cell location data without a warrant. Government agencies do not currently need a warrant when requesting location and other data held by phone companies thanks to a 1979 court case.
Judge Says Law Enforcement Needs Warrant to Use Stingrays
Jul 13, 2016
A federal judge has tossed evidence discovered by Drug Enforcement Administration officers after they used a Stingray to locate a suspect without a warrant. The case involves a drug trafficking ring in New York City.
Supreme Court Won't Weigh In On Phone Location Warrants
Nov 9, 2015
The U.S. Supreme Court has chosen not to review an appeal concerning the use of search warrants for cellphone location data.
There's something like this every day it seems