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The war on keeping the privacy of cell phone users won another battle. A U.S federal appeals court has ruled that tracking Americans’ movements using data from their cell phones without a warrant violates their Fourth Amendment rights. The court held that the government’s warrantless gathering of an individual’s cell phone site location information violated his reasonable expectation of privacy.
According to Security Management the court’s ruling stems from a case involving Quartavius Davis, who was charged and convicted of violating the Hobbs Act when he robbed a series of businesses, including a Little Caesars, a Walgreens, and a Wendy’s, in conspiracy with several other individuals.
As part of its evidence, the prosecution used records from cell phone service providers that showed Davis and his co-defendants had made and received phone calls near the locations of six businesses that they were charged with robbing. However, the location data had been obtained by a court order—not by a warrant—and Davis claimed that this action violated his Fourth Amendment rights. He requested that the evidence be suppressed during the trial, but his request was dismissed.
Instead, the prosecution used the cell phone site location data in the trial and Davis was convicted. He appealed the decision, which reached the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. As part of his appeal, he again argued that his Fourth Amendment rights had been violated because the prosecution was able to use records collected from cell phone service providers without a warrant.
The appeals court did not overturn Davis’s sentencing, but it did rule that the government had violated his Fourth Amendment rights because “the government’s warrantless gathering of his cell site location information violated his reasonable expectation of privacy.”