Warrantless location searches allowed by US court
With the number of ways you can be tracked everywhere you go, — many of which you actually can’t control — if law enforcement are on your case, it used to be that they needed a warrant to get cellular networks to turn over location records.
Not so much anymore with a ruling from the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The judges voted 12 to 3 that the location data being retrieved has been revealed to a third party and, therefore, does not get the protection of the the Fourth Amendment in the US Constitution against searches without a warrant. The government can compel that third party to turn over that data. That third party? The cellular networks.
“Anyone who has stepped outside to ‘get a signal,’ or has warned a caller of a potential loss of service before entering an elevator, understands, on some level, that location matters,” wrote a judge representing the majority.
One dissenting judge said that users don’t knowingly put out their location constantly unlike when they make a phone call.
The verdict reverses a ruling on a armed robbery case that convicted the defendants. Part of the prosecutorial evidence was 221 days’ worth of Sprint records with 29,000 location plot points.
The Supreme Court will more likely deal with the issue in the form of a 6th US Circuit Court of Appeals case and in other challenges supported by the ACLU.