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  • Dean Smith

Supreme Court Rules that a Warrant Must Be Issued for Police to Access Cellphone Location Records

Constitutional rights to privacy continue to be tested with current technology, but according to an article by Richard Wolf of USA Today, Supreme Court justices concluded that, “police need a warrant to access data from mobile service providers that shows where an individual has traveled over weeks, months, or even years,” and that, “police cannot use GPS equipment to track vehicles or search cellphones without a warrant.”

The case began with a string of violent armed robberies spanning two states, Michigan and Ohio, between 2010 and 2011. Wolf noted, “To prosecute its case against Timothy Carpenter, the government obtained cellphone records that revealed his approximate location over 127 days, placing him in proximity to four of the crimes.”

Conservative court justices argued that this technology can help prevent and deter violent crime, while liberal justices argued that the privacy threat not only applies to violent criminals, but the rest of the 400 million cell phone owners in the United States.

Ultimately, justices ruled 5-4 to upholding privacy standards. On the contrary, “the chief justice stressed that the ruling was along narrow grounds. He said conventional surveillance techniques and tools, such as security cameras or even monitoring cellphone location data in real time, remain constitutional,” said Wolf. The chief justice also said, “warrants can be skipped in extreme cases involving imminent threats.”

The digital age forces us to adapt and stay current in privacy issues, regardless of the outcome.

See the full article outlining the case below.

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