This week the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Carpenter v. United States. In this case the Government obtained, without a warrant, and used at trial, cell site location information for the defendat’s phone to place the defendant at the location of various robberies. The defendant was convicted and sentenced to 116 years in prison.
The issue for the Supreme Court, is whether the Government needed to have a warrant when they obtained the cell site location information. Carpenter is arguing that obtaining this information without a warrant violated his right to be free from warrantless searches under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution. On the other hand, the Government is arguing that the federal Stored Communications Act and the fact that Carpenter’s information was voluntarily turned over to his cellphone service provider allow this information to be obtained without a warrant.
While it appears that the “Justices Seem Ready to Boost Protection of Digital Privacy“, whatever decision the Court comes to will have a significant impact on individual privacy issues in the digital age.
For a primer on the technical and legal aspects of this case see John Villasenor’s article published by Forbes “Is Warrantless Access To Cell Site Info A Fourth Amendment Violation? A Prime on Carpenter v. U.S.”
For a recap and analysis of the oral arguments see Amy Howe’s blog posting “Argument analysis: Drawing a line on privacy for cellphone records, but where?” and Dahlia Lithwick’s article for Slate “Can You Track Me Now? The Supreme Court weighs whether the government should be able to get its hands on your cellphone location data.”
A transcript of the Supreme Court oral arguments can be found HERE.