Supreme Court Says Warrant Required for Cell-Based Location Searches
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that law enforcement must generally obtain a search warrant in order to track people via cell phone towers. The 5-4 ruling sided with the defendant in a case where police discovered a suspect's whereabouts through cell phone records without first getting a warrant. The Supreme Court said gathering location data from wireless carriers without a warrant fits the definition of unreasonable search and seizure, a violation of the Fourth Amendment. "The Fourth Amendment protects not only property interests but certain expectations of privacy as well," read the ruling, as cell tower records often "give the Government near perfect surveillance." This ruling sets the legal precedent and will likely impact current and future cases.
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.
Aug 15, 2017
Apple and a handful of technology companies are asking the Supreme Court to carefully consider the potential adverse outcomes if law enforcement is given warrantless access to personal information, such as location data. The companies filed a brief with the Supreme Court, which will soon hear a case about how law enforcement gleaned a suspect's location by taking the data from a third party without a warrant.
May 26, 2020
A federal judge in Seattle has ruled that the FBI violated a defendant's Fourth Amendment rights when it collected evidence by powering on the defendant's smartphone and photographing a notification displayed on the lock screen. The judge ruled that the FBI's actions amounted to a search, even though they made no attempt to unlock the phone.
Nov 17, 2017
Moving forward, New York law enforcement agencies will need to go before a judge and obtain an eavesdropping warrant if they wish to use stingrays to track suspects' cellphones. Stingrays spoof cell towers and fool cell phones into connecting with them.