Police Could Soon Conduct Warrantless Cellphone Tracking
During the last week of November, The Supreme Court was dealing with a case involving digital privacy. The high court was determining how exactly to apply legal rules in a way that would keep pace with rapidly advancing technology.
According to reports, several justices are struggling with the fact that President Donald Trump’s administration has taken a position that the government does not need a warrant in order to locate a person via their cell phone. The Deputy Solicitor has said that there are diminished rights to privacy when a person has turned their information over to a third party, such as a cell carrier.
The Arguments in the Supreme Court
Justice Sotomayor stated that most people want to avoid Big Brother. They do not want the government to be able to locate them anytime, anywhere. Cell phones, she noted, can be pinged anywhere, from doctor’s offices to bedrooms. Other justices seemed more worried about where the line should be drawn to avoid stepping on the Fourth Amendment protections.
While several justices pushed back against the solicitor’s arguments, two seemed to be on the same page. Justices Alito and Kennedy both seemed to not only understand where the solicitor was coming from, but support his ideas. Privacy concerns were acknowledged, but it was also worried that the justices may declare existing precedent as obsolete.
Arguments Outside the Supreme Court
Companies like Facebook and Apple has voiced their opinions. Neither company has taken a stance on one side of the argument or the other, but are urging the court to stop relying on whether or not the data has been provided to a third party. They are asking that the doctrine is flexible, and that sensitivity of the data is at the forefront.
According to a Fourth Amendment expert, the Amendment affords people the protection in cases of their homes, papers and effects from government interference, but the Amendment’s protections do not extend to government surveillance. A person, says the expert, voluntarily exposes themselves to observation when they deliver communications remotely.
It is presumed that the way in which the justices decide the case will lay the groundwork for other issues. Specifically, how the justices decide this case may have a great impact on the future of the government’s ability to surveil private citizens. Experts and advocates say that this case could impact things like search queries on the Internet to digital medical records.
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