Supreme Court rules that police need warrants to get phone location info

The United States Supreme Court issued a ruling on June 22 stating that police must first get an official warrant before they can use cell tower data to track someone's location.

This ruling comes from the Carpenter v. United States case that dates back six years to 2011. Timothy Carpenter was arrested for a robbery in Detroit during that year, but only after police tracked down 12,898 locations of Carpenter over the course of 127 days. However, the police obtained all this data without any sort of warrant.

With the June 22 decision from the Supreme Court, Chief Justice John Roberts says:

Given the unique nature of cell phone location records, the fact that the information is held by a third party does not by itself overcome the user's claim to Fourth Amendment protection.

Furthermore, as noted by Democratic Senator Ron Wyden:

The court's recognition that digital devices can generate 'near-perfect surveillance' of a person's private life is a validation of the vital protections against unreasonable search and seizure provided by our Constitution

The Supreme Court voted 5-4 in favor of this decision and noted that this will not affect other "conventional" surveillance methods such as security cameras.

Prior to this ruling, U.S. carriers also came under fire for the way they were handling user location info. Shortly after it was discovered that location data was being shared and sold to third parties, Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile all announced that they were stopping this practice.

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Joe Maring
  • Does that apply to missing persons cases? Because time is pretty critical in those instances. I would be a horrible consequence to have people die due to this ruling. I hope they have a bypass for that situation. It's hard enough in some cases to get the police to even look for someone, and to make it harder for them to do so, decreases the chance of them being willing to try.
  • With the White House kidnapping children left and right, their needs to be some mechanism in place.
  • wow you are Delusional wow
  • Did you read the article? This only applies to "unreasonable search and seizure provided by our Constitution". Missing person cases in 99.9% of the time will give their consent which means no warrant is required. Our Constitution is their for a reason, to protect everyone. Without it we just become North Korea, China, and Iran.
  • It's in place as protection against unreasonable search and seizure, the article doesn't clarify when it's applied, it seems like a fairly broad ruling. Yes, I read it.