Yesterday, the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ruled that a warrant is required for cell phone location tracking since someone’s cell phone location data is included as part of a person’s reasonable expectation of privacy under the Fourth Amendment.
In the case, the police used data from cellular providers to catch armed robbers. The police did not get a warrant and instead obtained a court order which instead of requiring ‘probable cause‘ is obtained if there is ‘reasonable grounds to believe” that the information is relevant to such investigation.
The final verdict, while good for privacy advocates, did not reverse the final verdict, warrantless mining of location data is unconstitutional. Unfortunately for the defendant, even though his constitutional rights were violated, the judges did not believe that this was a “reversible error” and therefore kept the verdict from the previous court.
The ACLU has responded with the following statement:
“The court’s opinion is a resounding defense of the Fourth Amendment’s continuing vitality in the digital age. The court soundly repudiates the government’s argument that by merely using a cell phone, people somehow surrender their privacy rights.”