Our cellphones contain incredible amounts of data, much of which we consider to be private. As such, many people set up passwords, opt for added verification measures and use their fingerprint to unlock their phones. We take these precautions so that others can’t access our information without permission.
Despite these efforts, it is still possible for people to get information from our phones — particularly people in federal government agencies if you are under criminal investigation. However, a U.S. Supreme Court decision just made things more difficult for them.
Expanding the scope of privacy laws
The decision, which is discussed in more depth in this Slate article, was in response to a case involving a man convicted for robbery based on location information obtained from his cellphone records. Using location information stored by wireless carriers, law enforcement was able to track the man’s movement over the course of 127 days.
However, the Supreme Court ruled that law enforcement agencies must get a warrant before obtaining cell site location information (CSLI), expanding the scope of privacy laws and the Fourth Amendment.
Such a ruling is important because it makes it more difficult for law enforcement to access what Chief Justice John Roberts calls “deeply revealing” data, Previously, CSLI was excluded from Fourth Amendment protection because it is information voluntarily shared with a third-party (wireless companies.)
What this means for people in Pennsylvania
This landmark ruling gives people more protection from law enforcement. If police want to see where your phone was at a certain day or time, they must secure a warrant, which requires probable cause. If they cannot meet this standard, they cannot access CSLI information.
The right to privacy is vital to protect, especially in a time when we have a massive amount of sensitive information at the tip of our fingers at any given moment. If you feel law enforcement violated your rights or your loved one’s rights and there are federal charges on the line, it can be crucial to consult an experienced criminal defense attorney to discuss your case.