YOU ARE AT:Cell Tower NewsCell tower data doesn't require warrant, U.S. Court of Appeals said

Cell tower data doesn't require warrant, U.S. Court of Appeals said

Latest tower data ruling overturns last year’s panel ruling

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled May 31 by a 12-3 vote that cell tower data records regarding a user’s location that is in possession of a wireless carrier does not require a warrant for authorities to access. This new decision overturns a panel ruling that occurred last summer, which, for the first time in a court of its stature, ruled in favor of privacy regarding the hotly contested cell tower data. In this latest case, an opinion put forth by Judge Diana Gribbon Motz said that individuals don’t have a Fourth Amendment-backed right to privacy since the information is the hands of a third party. Once the information has been willfully given to a third party, it’s fair game.
Privacy pertaining to cellular data has been a contested issue for several years now, and while this latest ruling aligns with previous circuit court decisions, it is raising alarms for privacy advocates.
“The use of a cellphone is all but a necessity in today’s world, but the court sidesteps any consideration of the realities of how people use this technology and of how long-term location tracking can reveal the intimacies of people’s lives,” Andrew Crocker of the Electronic Frontier Foundation told Bloomberg BNA.
Many wonder if it isn’t time for the U.S. Supreme Court to step in and give a definitive ruling regarding cell tower data, but evidence suggests that it is not interested, since a previous case from the Eleventh Circuit that was incredibly similar was denied. Those familiar with the case have likened the situation to a precedent in the courts regarding bank records, which were found to not be protected by privacy rights. Others, however argue that this is an outdated example and the rules need to be revisited regarding electronic information, especially since the data is much more detailed an invasive than bank records.

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Jarad Matula
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