In a major decision on privacy in the digital age, the Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 ruling today that police must obtain a warrant to obtain cellphone location records.
The case, Carpenter v. United States, has been closely watched for its Fourth Amendment implications, and centered on whether there was a reasonable expectation of privacy when location records were hold by a third party.
“Given the unique nature of cell phone location records, the fact that the information is held by a third party does not by itself overcome the user’s claim to Fourth Amendment protection,” the opinion reads.
The court said in its majority opinion that the decision was a narrow one, but the ruling is still notable for how it will affect law enforcement surveillance.
High-profile tech companies, including Apple, Google, and Facebook, wrote in support of Fourth Amendment privacy protections in a filing to the court last year. Timothy Carpenter, who was convicted of robbery charges after police tracked his phone records, was represented by the ACLU in the case.