June 25, 2018 - Privacy + Data Security

U.S. Supreme Court Rules That Location Information Is Protected by the Fourth Amendment

In a widely anticipated decision, the Supreme Court held 5-4 that the government must obtain a warrant to acquire customer location information maintained by cellular service providers, at least where that information covers a period of a week or more. The case, Carpenter v. United States, has been closely watched by tech companies and privacy experts. The opinion, authored by Chief Justice John Roberts, immediately enshrines greater protections for certain forms of location data assembled by third parties and represents a growing discomfort on the Court with the so-called “third-party doctrine”—a line of cases holding that a person does not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in records that he or she voluntarily discloses to a third party. In the longer run, there will likely be further litigation over whether the same logic should extend Fourth Amendment protections to other types of sensitive information in the hands of third parties as courts grapple with applying these principles in the digital age.

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