Police no longer need a warrant for cell phone records, court rules

A federal appeals court said citizens have "no expectation of privacy" when a third-party company holds data, such as cell phone records.

(Image: CNET/CBS Interactive)

Police do not need a warrant to grab cell phone records from carriers, an appeals court has ruled.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit reversed its decision Tuesday, ruling that citizens have "no expectation of privacy" when a third-party company holds their records.

This is the latest case to test the scope and scale of the Fourth Amendment, designed to prevent the government from conducting unreasonable searches and seizures.

The appeals' panel said the case involved some 11,600 records obtained from MetroPCS on a armed robbery suspect (who was later convicted) named Quartavious Davis. The records collected could pinpoint exactly where Davis had been over the course of nine weeks based on data collected from cell towers.

But the court ruled that the records belonged to the cell company, not to Davis, adding that the collection of records "did not involve a physical intrusion on private property or a search at all."

One of the judges in Davis' favor said the Fourth Amendment could expand the government's surveillance powers without first requiring a warrant.

Nathan Freed Wessler, ACLU staff attorney, said in remarks that the Supreme Court will likely pick up the issue.

He added: "As the dissenting judges recognized, outdated legal doctrines from the analog age should not be mechanically extended to undermine our privacy rights in the voluminous digital records that come with modern life."

(via Vice,Wall Street Journal)

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