Friday, June 22, 2018

Supreme Court says police need a warrant for historical cell location records

Via ZDNet:
The Supreme Court has said that law enforcement must first seek a warrant before obtaining historical cell phone location records from phone companies, upending a near-decade long practice by police.

The court ruled 5-4 on the case, in what became one of the most awaited privacy legal decisions in the US this year.

The so-called "Carpenter" case had centered on the eponymous Timothy Carpenter, a criminal who was caught thanks to cell phone records in 2011. Law enforcement had obtained his location data from a phone provider without a search warrant, arguing the provider already had his data and Carpenter had no "reasonable expectation of privacy."

But the court found the government's warrantless access to cell-site records over a period of time "contravenes that expectation" of privacy, said (the court)....

The court stressed that the decision does not consider real-time tracking, or so-called "tower dumps," which police use to obtain information on all of the devices connected to a cell tower at during a particular period of time....

Police may, however, still obtain this data without a warrant in exigent circumstances, such as if there is an immediate threat or danger to life.

Read the complete decision here.

More on the Carpenter case here.