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Cellphone Location Case Appeal Rejected By U.S. Supreme Court

November 9, 2015 - Written By John Anon

Security is one of the extremely hot topics at the moment. Although, the word ‘security’ seems to be one which is generally interchangeable at the moment with ‘data’, ‘privacy’ and the likes. With all the various terms amounting to the same thing, ensuring that as our devices become more ‘smarter’ and more connected, they do not become more susceptible to the leaking of information or vulnerabilities in which information, data, or otherwise could be obtained without our direct permission. While, these sorts of breaches are usually more often discussed in terms of hackers and risks of downloading third-party apps or being rooted, there is also the added dimension of the legalities of information obtained from our devices by various governmental agencies.

Well, Reuters is today reporting that a U.S. appeals court has rejected a case this morning in which an appeal was filed and claiming information was illegally obtained. The appeal revolved around location data which the police were able to obtain from MetroPCS Communications. The location information was then used to position someone at various locations where crimes had been alleged to have occurred. Essentially, adding to the information that the individual, named as Quartavious Davis, was at the various scenes. Information which was used as part of successful conviction on a number of robbery charges.

The appeal focuses on the fact that the location data was obtained without the use of a court issued warrant and therefore, playing on the notion of whether carriers should be able to divulge customer information without permission or a warrant. The appeal suggested that the lack of warrant breached Davis’ civil rights under the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment. However, the court turned down the appeal, based on the argument that user data does not require a warrant to be obtained. Instead, it only requires “reasonable grounds” instead of the “probably cause” which would be normally needed to obtain a warrant. Of course, this is unlikely to be the only case or appeal which ends up passing through the courts and focusing on the use of obtained customer data from mobile devices and their respective carriers.