New York Judge Rules That A Warrant Is Required To Obtain Location Data


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.

[Via ArsTechnica]

Chris Chavez
I've been obsessed with consumer technology for about as long as I can remember, be it video games, photography, or mobile devices. If you can plug it in, I have to own it. Preparing for the day when Android finally becomes self-aware and I get to welcome our new robot overlords.

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  1. It’s how it starts. Big Brother leads us to believe cell-based location services are for our safety, to be used by emergency agencies in emergency situations. But Big Brother has other plans, like monitoring our every move. Dun dun duuunnnn!

  2. lets hope that as these types of intrusion by the government are challenged and won by the people.

  3. Too bad it’s only a district court, but a 22 page opinion should be persuasive if it’s appealed to the Supreme Court of New York.

    1. Actually, Judge Garaufis is a federal court judge. An appeal would go to the federal appeals court. Then, if appealed again, it could make it to the U.S. Supreme Court, if the Justices were so inclined.

  4. The judge made a great ruling.

  5. Someone should get the info of that prosecutor and start posting on a blog, showing his location at all times. I’m sure he would not like that at all.

    1. Federal prosecutors take their direction from the Attorney General of the United States. I would suggest we remind the President that civil liberties should remain a top priority for his administration.

      1. Our President only cares about his ability to get Re-Elected, and nothing else. I just wish he would actually pay attention to the letters reaffirming just what you said above.

  6. What is the customer location data needed for. This story doesn’t say. I’m all for releasing this data for tracking down criminals.

    1. If it is a criminal they should be able to get a warrant pretty easily with some evidence, but if they allow it without a warrant what is to stop them from getting everyone’s information?

  7. Please do something about the spams. It’s getting out of hand. Seriously annoying!

  8. Good job Garaufis. This should be a no-brainer.

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