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USA justices adopt digital-age privacy rules to track cellphones

23 June, 2018, 08:00 | Author: Vicki Mclaughlin
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Since cell phone location data is logged automatically "without any affirmative act on the part of the user beyond powering up", Roberts wrote, "in no meaningful sense does the user voluntarily "assume the risk" of turning over a comprehensive dossier of his physical movements".

The chief justice parted ways with the court's four other conservatives, who were all in dissent.

The case, Carpenter v.

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and other media organizations also linked the Fourth Amendment to the First Amendment and freedom of the press in a separate court filing, explaining that warrantless searches of cell phone location data could result in the surveillance of journalists' activity and reveal their sources.

The judge at Carpenter's trial refused to suppress the records, finding no warrant was needed, and a federal appeals court agreed. With the help of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Carpenter sued and challenged the conviction, arguing investigators violated his privacy because investigators didn't get a warrant for his cell phone records.

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"This is a groundbreaking victory for Americans' privacy rights in the digital age". "Here, the Court explains that shifts in technology require revisiting what's known as the "third party doctrine", the idea that if you've knowingly shared information with a third party, you have a reduced expectation of privacy in that information", Shaw explained. The organization noted that the ruling's implications could extend beyond just the cell phone location data at the heart of Friday's decision, as it provides a legal basis for future digital privacy cases. Law enforcement officials often force phone companies or individuals to unlock their phones for a search, and cell-site records can still be obtained by the feds with a properly procured warrant.

In a similar case back in 2014, The Supreme Court ruled that police wanting to search the contents of a suspect's smartphone would also need a search warrant. Other items people carry with them may be looked at without a warrant, after an arrest.

Even with the court's ruling in Carpenter's favour, it's too soon to know whether he will benefit from Friday's decision, said Harold Gurewitz, Carpenter's lawyer in Detroit.

The ruling isn't without limits however, as Chief Justice Roberts, who wrote the majority opinion, stated that the government will still be able to subpoena cell records in the "overwhelming majority of investigations". The Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will have to evaluate whether the cellphone tracking records can still be used against Carpenter under the "good faith" exception for law enforcement - evidence should not necessarily be thrown out if authorities obtained it in a way they thought the law required.

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