Court Rules Phone Location Records Not Protected by 4th Amendment

© AFP/File Mohd Fyrol
© AFP/File Mohd Fyrol

The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that mobile phone location records do not fall under the Fourth Amendment, after a 12-3 vote on Monday.

The ruling concludes that if a law enforcement agency wanted to retrieve a citizen’s Google Maps records or background location tracking data from their mobile device, a warrant would not required.

The Fourth Amendment, which was added to the United States Constitution in 1792, allows US citizens “to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.” However, the judges argued that consumers “willingly surrender information” to third-party applications when using most technology and software, and it was deemed that “no reasonable expectation of privacy” is to be experienced in such situation.

“Supreme Court precedent mandates this conclusion. For the Court has long held that an individual enjoys no Fourth Amendment protection “in information he voluntarily turns over to [a] third part[y],” concluded Judge Diana Motz . “This rule — the third-party doctrine — applies even when ‘the information is revealed’ to a third party, as it assertedly was here, ‘on the assumption that it will be used only for a limited purpose and the confidence placed in the third party will not be betrayed.’”

In their opinion, the three dissenting judges stated that “only time will tell whether our society will prove capable of preserving age-old privacy protections in this increasingly networked era. But one thing is sure: this Court’s decision today will do nothing to advance that effort.”

The three dissenting judges were Judge James Wynn, Judge Henry Floyd, and Judge Stephanie Thacker.