US Feds Need Warrants to Access Cellphone Location Records


On June 22, 2018, the US Supreme Court in Carpenter v. United States, a 5-4 decision, held that the federal government needs a warrant to access cellphone location records. The government in seeking to uphold Carpenter’s lower court conviction, which during the trial made use of extensive use of cell tower location information obtained from service providers, argued that individuals do not have a legitimate expectation of privacy in cell phone records. Citing the “third party doctrine” a doctrine under which information provided to third parties voluntarily eliminates a reasonable expectation of privacy in the information it was contended Carpenter had no privacy interest in the information. The Court disagreed with the government and sided with Carpenter. It held that individuals do have a legitimate expectation of privacy in their cell phone location records and the government needed a warrant for access.

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