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Police Need a Warrant for Your Cell-Phone Location Records

You can thank the Supreme Court for that.

Last week, the nation’s high court ruled that police need a warrant to get your phone’s location records and map out your every move over time. The case reflects a growing consensus to protect these records, and it builds on a prior decision that said police can’t rummage through your phone just because they arrest you.

Before this decision, the government could get your location records simply by explaining how they’re material to a criminal investigation. And that’s not hard to do. Just think about it. When couldn’t the government explain why your travels were important once it decided to investigate you?

But now it will need to get a warrant and show probable cause to believe those records will evidence a crime. That’s not terribly hard to do, either, but it’s a higher standard that coheres with the Constitution and respects our privacy and autonomy.

It didn’t take long, but people no longer have a meaningful choice when it comes to their phones. We have to carry them around because they’re indispensable to modern life.

That’s why the government should have to get a warrant to use them like tracking devices.

And now it does, not just in your state but from sea to shining sea.

 

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