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  • Ashley N. Baker

The Supreme Court Can Protect Privacy Rights in the Digital Age

On Friday, the Committee for Justice (CFJ) joined the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the Cato Institute, and the Reason Foundation in filing an amicus brief in support of Fourth Amendment privacy rights in the Supreme Court case Carpenter v. United States.

When the Court hears this case this fall, the justices will determine whether law enforcement can seize and search an individual's cell phone location data—revealing virtually all of the person's movements—without a search warrant. The brief says no. Under the plain text and intent of the Fourth Amendment, our brief argues, the government should not be able to turn a cell phone into a tracking device without a warrant.

The appellants in the case are two men convicted on federal charges following a series of armed robberies. They argue that the government violated their Fourth Amendment rights when it acquired the location data from their wireless carriers without a search warrant.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled against the men based on the “reasonable expectation of privacy” doctrine, and its corollary, the third-party doctrine, both of which were created by the Supreme Court in the twentieth century. The third-party doctrine assumes that no search—and thus no Fourth Amendment violation