Location based tracking has always been a major privacy issue and many a times, US courts have ruled that cell phone companies may hand over such location data to police without a warrant. But, in a recent ruling by a US Appellate court, the judge ruled that police must obtain a warrant before collecting location based data of an individual. This is because, the Fourth Amendment guarantees the protection of the privacy of an individual and hence, a warrant is essential when such data of an individual is collected by the police.
The decision comes as a result of a case wherein a person was accused of being involved in a series of armed robberies. Quartavius Davis, the accused was convicted by the jury for taking part in the robberies in places like Amerika Gas station, Wendy’s restaurant and Little Caesars restaurant.
The prosecution brought in the location based data as evidence in court which proved that Davis was near the above mentioned places during the time of robbery. However, Davis claimed that this data violated the Fourth Amendment Guarantee which protected the privacy of an individual. And surprisingly, the court agreed to this claim.
According to the court, while the Fourth Amendment was initially concerned with property rights of an individual, in this new age world, it’s applicable for the protection of many more areas including communication.
“In the 20th century, a second view gradually developed, that is, that the Fourth Amendment guarantee protects the privacy rights of the people without respect to whether the alleged ‘search’ constituted a trespass against property rights.” said the court with regards to the ruling.
And while the court agreed with Davis in this matter, it did not discard the location based evidence against him and the prosecution was allowed to use this as evidence in court.
“While committing a crime is certainly not within a legitimate expectation of privacy, if the cell site location data could place him near those scenes, it could place him near any other scene,” the court said. “There is a reasonable privacy interest in being near the home of a lover, or a dispensary of medication, or a place of worship, or a house of ill repute.”
So even though this ruling did not help Davis in the case, it is still a landmark decision which will prevent police from collecting such important data without any warrant.
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