Police do not need a warrant to obtain a person’s cellphone location data held by wireless carriers, a U.S. appeals court ruled on Tuesday, dealing a major setback to privacy advocates.
Writing for the majority, Judge Diana Motz said obtaining cell-site information did not violate the protection against unreasonable searches found in the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution because cellphone users are generally aware that they are voluntarily sharing such data with their provider.
— Mike Nyerges (@Nyrgs) April 23, 2016
Last year in August The Hill reported:
The split decision from the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals concluded that warrantless searches of cellphone data are unconstitutional, a victory for privacy advocates who have sought new protections for people’s information.
“We conclude that the government’s warrantless procurement of the [cell site location information] was an unreasonable search in violation of appellants’ Fourth Amendment rights,” Judge Andre Davis wrote on behalf of the majority of the three-judge panel.
Judge Motz dissented with:
In a dissenting opinion, Judge Diana Gribbon Motz declared that constitutional protections for privacy do not apply to people’s cellphone location data. That information is covered under the “third party doctrine,” she said, which states that there are fewer privacy protections for information a person willingly hands over to a third party, such as cellphone location information.
“If the majority is proven right, it will only be because the Supreme Court revises its decades-old understanding of how the Fourth Amendment treats information voluntarily disclosed to third parties,” she wrote. “Today the majority endeavors to beat the Supreme Court to the punch.”