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Showing posts from July, 2018

You and Your Tracking Device (aka cell phone): U.S. Supreme Court Issues a Narrow Win for Privacy

Criminal Law Update: Summer 2018

Last month, the Supreme Court of the United States issued a monumental, long-awaited decision on privacy rights, Fourth Amendment, and digital data. In United States v. Carpenter, the Court ruled that to access an individual’s historical cell phone data, law enforcement needs a warrant supported by probable cause. This applies to the “396 million cell phone service account” in the U.S., as identified by the Court. To hear the figure is overwhelming - 396 million cell phone accounts for a nation of 326 million! The 5-4 split decision displayed the complexities of applying Fourth Amendment law to evolving and invasive technology which has become a natural part of American lives.
What is Historical Cell Phone Data?
Cell phones operate by connecting to a set of radio antennas called “cell sites” which are typically mounted on towers. These cell sites have directional antennas that divide the covered area into sectors (see figures below). The cell …