Supreme Court rules that police need a warrant to access cell phone data
iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The Supreme Court ruled that police need a search warrant to review cell phone records that include data like a user’s location, which will impose a higher bar for law enforcement to access data collected on the millions of people who use smartphones on a daily basis.
The plaintiff in this case, Timothy Carpenter, was convicted of multiple robbery and gun offenses but challenged the conviction saying that officers investigating the case didn’t get a warrant for his cell phone records. The government argued that law enforcement doesn’t need a warrant to get cell phone records from the service provider since it’s a third party.
The Court ruled that cell phone location data should have the same protection from unreasonable search as physical evidence.
“We decline to grant the state unrestricted access to a wireless carrier’s database of physical location information,” the Court wrote in its decision. “In light of the deeply revealing nature of (cell site location information), its depth, breadth, and comprehensive reach, and the inescapable and automatic nature of its collection, the fact that such information is gathered by a third party does not make it any less deserving of Fourth Amendment protection.”
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