Court rules that warrants are required for searches of cell phone location history, setting up SCOTUS fight


In a decision that could have broad implications for law enforcement searches in the digital age, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday afternoon that officials must get a search warrant to review someone’s historical cell phone location data.

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, in Virginia, overturned a previous ruling that investigators only needed a court order (and its lower standard of evidence) to use cell phone location data. Today’s ruling conflicts with decisions by other appeals courts, and will likely lead to a Supreme Court case on the issue.

“We conclude that the government’s warrantless procurement of the [cell phone location data] was an unreasonable search in violation of Appellants’ Fourth Amendment rights,” Judge Andre Davis wrote in the decision. “Even as technology evolves, protections against government intrusion should remain consistent with those privacy expectations society deems reasonable.”

The government’s argument was that by using a cell phone, you’re letting the phone company know where you are and therefore you’ve given…

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