Yesterday, Nicholas Garaufis, an Eastern District New York judge, denied the U.S. government’s application requesting that Verizon Wireless hand over 113 days of customer location data. According to Judge Garaufis, law enforcement would need a warrant to obtains all those months of location data. He rejected the argument that a customer waives their Fourth Amendment rights to privacy when they purchase a cell phone and “voluntarily” transmit their location to a carrier’s cellphone towers. In a 22-page opinion, Judge Garaufis said,
“The fiction that the vast majority of the American population consents to warrantless government access to the records of a significant share of their movements by ‘choosing’ to carry a cell phone must be rejected.”
“In light of drastic developments in technology, the Fourth Amendment doctrine must evolve to preserve cell-phone user’s reasonable expectation of privacy in cumulative cell-site-location records.”
“Applying the third-party-disclosure doctrine to cumulative cell-site-location records would permit governmental intrusion into information which is objectively recognized as highly private. In order to prevent the Fourth Amendment from losing force in the face of changing technology, Fourth Amendment doctrine has evolved throughout time and must continue to do so.”
Not all judges have ruled the same way. Some courts have only upheld the Fourth Amendment when it comes to voice recording and text messages but location data gathered by cell towers — well, that’s fair game. I rather agree with Judge Nicholas Garaufis stance on location data. I think as the times change and technology becomes more advanced and invasive, hopefully we’ll see more judges evolve with the times.