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Whither the Fourth Amendment, and Does It Need a 21st Century Makeover?

The Fourth Amendment may not be on its last legs, but to many observers, it’s in a fight for its life. One battleground is the third-party-records doctrine, which says you have no reasonable expectation of privacy in (and thus no Fourth-Amendment protection for) information you voluntarily provide to a third party. This makes sense in the abstract, and it may have made sense 50 years ago, but it can devolve into utter nonsense when applied to modern-day things like email or the 24/7 location data emanating from your cell phone. This plain-English story looks at these issues and asks whether the Fourth Amendment protects us at all if it doesn’t apply to the new ways in which real people must live in the real world.

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