Supreme Court Rules That Cell Site Location Information Has Fourth Amendment Protection

BY Heather Greenfield
June 22, 2018

Washington — Law enforcement cannot access a criminal suspect’s cell site location information without a warrant based on probable cause, according to a Supreme Court ruling today. Carpenter v. United States examined whether the warrantless seizure and search of historical cellphone records, revealing the location and movements of a cell phone user over the course of 127 days, is permitted by the Fourth Amendment. As more of users’ personal information is stored in smart devices and cloud services, this decision will have ever-increasing implications for user trust in the privacy and security of their digital lives.

The Computer & Communications Industry Association has advocated for improved Fourth Amendment protections for online content and location data for over a decade. The following can be attributed to CCIA President & CEO Ed Black:

“We are encouraged by the Court’s decision to afford location information stored with mobile service providers the level of Fourth Amendment protection that users expect for all their digitally-maintained data. This decision will provide users with the confidence that the sensitive location data they share with innovative digital devices and services will only be disclosed to law enforcement with a warrant based on probable cause.

“Storage of location data with service providers is an increasingly necessary part of digital life, and will only become more essential as more connected devices come online. While the Court’s decision is narrow, its reasoning could have significant impact on the future application of the Fourth Amendment’s protections to digital data.”

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