U.S. Supreme Court rules against police access to cell phone historical data without a warrant
By: Amy Katzenberg, Xiro Xone News June 23, 2018 Updated: 2:13 PM PT
In a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court sided with privacy advocates by looking to the U.S. Constitution in their ruling that the police cannot obtain historical location data from wireless carriers without a warrant. The court reasoned that such a search amounts to an illegal search and seizure, which is protected under the fourth amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Currently, law enforcement can obtain any information from cell phone carriers without a warrant. Phone numbers, text messages, video, photos, Internet searches, contacts, and historical location data of the user. Police officers can obtain information on where the cell phone user was located days, weeks, or months earlier to try and link them to a crime.
Chief justice Roberts who wrote the opinion, said, “We decline to grant the state unrestricted access to a wireless carrier’s database of physical location information.” But Roberts made clear, that the ruling did not resolve whether police could continue to track suspects in real-time using cell phone location information. It did not address surveillance cameras or data collected in other ways that is accessed, without a warrant.
Privacy advocate and American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Nate Wessler said, “Today’s decision rightly recognizes the need to protect the highly sensitive location data from our cell phones, but it also provides a path forward for safeguarding other sensitive digital information in future cases - from our emails, smart home appliances and technology that is yet to be invented.”