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Legal Features

The Supreme Court’s opinion in Carpenter v. United States

In a 5-4 ruling in Carpenter v. United States that sends a strong message about privacy rights in an age of government surveillance, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that police must generally obtain a warrant before obtaining cell phone data to track a person’s movements. Denouncing the now widespread tactic employed by police departments, big and small, of spying on Americans via their cell phones with little to no oversight, The Rutherford Institute had asked the Supreme Court to require police agencies to secure a warrant before executing a cell phone search and using that data to track a person’s movements over time. In its amicus brief, The Rutherford Institute called on the Court to reject the government’s claim that cell phone users have no reasonable expectation of privacy in cell phone location information, an idea that is based on the antiquated idea that individuals “voluntarily” provide this information to cellular service providers.

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