An appeals court ruled recently that police don’t need a warrant to access your cell phone’s location data.
Several cases challenging law enforcement’s warrantless access to location data have come up in recent years as cell phones technology advanced. The recent ruling, despite dealing with new technology, is based on a precedent set by court cases from the 1970s.
As Reason reports:
In Supreme Court cases from the 1970s, the court ruled that a person has no expectation of privacy for records or information that he or she voluntarily turns over to third parties. Back in the day, these cases were referring to things like very simple phone call records logged by telecoms or bank deposit slips. The amount of information that is available about us through third-party records has dramatically increased, but the precedent has not yet be reconsidered by the top court.“]
Should cases from the 1970s, when technology was much more limited, really set today’s rules for government’s ability to breach your privacy? With cell phones as powerful computers, police can learn vast amounts of your private information—all without a warrant.
It’s unclear where this precedent draws the line. As Judge James Wynn wrote in his dissent:
It is not bounded by the relative precision of location data, by the frequency with which it is collected, or by the statutory safeguards Congress has thought it prudent to enact. “]
This lack of clarity means your phone’s privacy is also uncertain. You can’t be sure the information on their phone—whether it’s your location or even more personal data—is safe from warrantless searches.
As we covered in the video below, cops don’t have the right to search your cell phone without a warrant or your consent. Do you think there’s a tension between these rulings on cell phone privacy?
Let us know what you think in the comments.