Published: Sat, June 23, 2018
Technology | By Nina Perez

Carrying a cellphone creates a "historical log" of movements, privacy expert says

Carrying a cellphone creates a

Fear of this unsafe imbalance of power led to the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution, which broadly requires a warrant for searches and seizures by the government. In a narrow 5-4 decision, Chief Justice John Roberts joined four liberal justices and declared that "individuals have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the whole of their physical movements", and noted that a phone's Global Positioning System records "give the Government near-perfect surveillance and allow it to travel back in time to retrace a person's whereabouts".

Friday's ruling also says in certain cases, police can get location records without a warrant.

The ACLU argued that because cell phone location records offer a wealth of private details about people's lives - such as their personal relationships, visits to the doctor, or religious practices - they should be covered by the Fourth Amendment, which protects against "unreasonable" searches and seizures by law enforcement. "In light of the deeply revealing nature of CSLI, 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". "The government argued that by "sharing" information about his location with his cell phone company, the defendant had lost any expectation of privacy, but the Court rejects that argument, finding that the defendant had a reasonable expectation of privacy and that a warrant was required to access information about his location derived from cell towers".

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".

Butler said the government can track you everywhere you go. "Unlike the nosy neighbor who keeps an eye on comings and goings, they are ever alert, and their memory is almost infallible".

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Chief Justice John Roberts prides himself on presiding over a Supreme Court that delivers careful, narrow opinions with clear guidance for lower courts and citizens.

Both supporters and critics of the ruling, however, acknowledged that the decision could have broad effects. "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. Cell tower records spanning 127 days and that investigators got without a warrant bolstered the case against Carpenter.

"This is a groundbreaking victory for Americans' privacy rights in the digital age". "The government can no longer claim that the mere act of using technology eliminates the Fourth Amendment's protections".

The justices' 5-4 decision marks a big change in how police may obtain information that phone companies collect from the ubiquitous cellphone towers that allow people to make and receive calls, and transmit data.

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