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Government Surveillance, Privacy & Data

CDT Supreme Court Amicus Brief in Carpenter v. US

This fall, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in Carpenter v. U.S., a case to determine whether the 4th Amendment requires law enforcement to obtain a warrant to access location data held by a cell phone company. In this case, the government obtained four months of stored location records with a less protective court order while investigating a robbery.

As we argue in the amicus brief below, it is time for the Supreme Court to evaluate new technologies and data on their merits and determine whether they invoke 4th Amendment interests based on the sensitivity of the information and how it was originally collected. For decades, the courts have summarily ruled “records” outside of the warrant requirement, finding that individuals have resigned all expectation of privacy by sharing their information with third parties like phone companies, banks, email providers and other everyday services. This legal construct does not make sense as applied to modern technology, and especially not to something as sensitive as location records. Carpenter is the perfect opportunity for the Supreme Court to recognize how technology has fundamentally changed and that the law should too.