The U.S. Supreme Court made a decision today with regards to how government agencies collect information, such as location data.
In its ruling, the Supreme Court has sided with the public’s stance on expanding digital privacy rights. The decision resulted in a 5-4 vote that required government agencies, including the police, to obtain a valid search warrant prior to accessing your smartphone’s location data from your wireless carrier.
Critics are calling this decision a “pro-criminal-defendant” decision since it strengthens protections imposed by the Fourth Amendment against “unreasonable searches and seizures.” Many, however, are pleased with today’s decision of the Supreme Court; since it upholds their privacy. And with location data being a hot topic in the last few months, it’s only important that the Supreme Court makes this decision today.
This ruling will play a vital role on the types of personal information that third parties are eligible to hold. Some of these include the individual’s texts, emails, internet search history, bank and financial records, and many more.
The decision follows a precedent called the third-party records doctrine. This document says that the Fourth Amendment does not apply to the information voluntarily shared by an individual to a third party. This, however, is not applicable to personal cell phone location data.
Chief Justice John Roberts, along with four other liberal justices, spearheaded the decision. Cell phone location data, as explained by the Supreme Court, is “not truly ‘shared’ as the term is normally understood.”
“We decline to grant the state unrestricted access to a wireless carrier’s database of physical location information. In light of the deeply revealing nature of [personal cell phone location data], its depth, breadth, and comprehensive reach, and the inescapable and automatic nature of its collection, the fact that such information is gathered by a third party does not make it any less deserving of Fourth Amendment protection.”
Senator Ron Wyden, another politician who has been lobbying for this, called today’s decision a “big win for privacy.” Even though warrants will not be a requirement for collecting data in all circumstances, it still marks a step in the right direction when it comes to protecting an individual’s privacy.
The Supreme Court has made a number of final major decisions in the last few weeks. Today’s ruling is just one out of the many. Additional decisions will be announced starting 10 AM EST on Monday.