Today, the Supreme Court voted that authorities need warrants to collect suspects’ digital location and data.
The court claimed that investigators disregarded the Fourth Amendment by collecting a suspect’s digital data and location without getting a warrant.
5 voted yes for the warrant and 4 voted no.
Carpenter v. United States is the case that brought the question upon Supreme Court members of whether a warrant should be asked for or not. It is the first case about the digital location that the court has voted on.
The incident that occurred, in this case, was 7 years ago. Police were trying to locate Timothy Carpenter for committing robbery, so they tracked his location through his phone data. In 4 months, they had gathered over 12 thousand different places that Carpenter had been to through the location data on his phone.
A Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals judge did not see the need for a warrant since the digital location is not protected by the Fourth Amendment.
However, after the Supreme Court voted, the Sixth Circuit court’s decision was reversed.
Chief Justice John Roberts argued that tracking someone’s digital location is an invasion of their privacy, but tracking their history location is a “privacy risk.”
Over the past few years, service providers have been giving away location data to Securus Technologies when they were keeping an eye out on prisoners and who they are receiving calls from.
LocationSmart has also been under investigation by the Federal Communications Commission for being able to locate the location of any phone in the U.S. without consent.
The vote that took place today is a big step towards people’s privacy.
The Supreme Court did mention that this new vote only affects phone location. They are still able to obtain location from security cameras, business records and real-time location tracking without a warrant.