I am not a lawyer, but I do sometimes get very interested in the decisions that the Supreme Court (SC) makes. Today was one of those days.
In a very specific criminal case, the SC decided that cell phone location information cannot be downloaded from cell phone providers and used to track criminal movements without a court order. And, I don’t know how I feel about this conclusion.
The court referenced how tracking a person’s location when they are in a public place like a highway or road is fair to download, as the person cannot have any expectation of privacy if they are driving their car on a public thoroughfare. The same logic applies with the use of a bank to store your money, for you know before you go in there that records of your transactions and serial numbers of currency are all managed by a third party for “business reasons.”
Yet, the pervasiveness of cell phones and the location data stored formally crosses over the privacy referenced in the 4th amendment. We have our cell phones on when we are in our homes, and our homes typically remain the most private places in our lives. The court, in a split decision, concluded that if police grab your cell phone location information and it happens to include times when you expected privacy, then they need a search warrant.
So, did the bad guys who were convicted get let free? The SC ruling doesn’t say. Do I want the cops to be able to track and capture the bad guys? Yes. Do I want them knowing my whereabouts by getting my cell phone data without my permission? No!
This topic will evolve. For now, have some faith the highest court in the land has formally announced that no government entity can have access to my cell phone location records and use it against me. They must get a warrant, first.