If law enforcement wants to get its hands on someone’s past cellphone location data, they’ll need to get their hands on a warrant. This is due to a recent ruling by a federal judge in California which has been regarded as a major win for privacy by digital rights activists. As it stands, cops can access your cellphone records, which includes your location history, without needing a court order, something that Judge Susan Illston has just ruled against.
A federal judge has ruled that cops need to get a warrant if they want to access a person’s past cellphone location data, in what digital rights activists call a big win for privacy. Currently, police can access your cellphone records, including information about your past locations, without a court order. On Monday, Judge Susan Illston, of the Northern District of California, ruled against that doctrine, saying that people have a reasonable expectation of privacy in their historical location data collected by cellphone providers. That means historical location data collected from cell towers is protected by the 4th Amendment, which protects against unreasonable searches and seizures. Cellphones are “ubiquitous” and “an indispensable gizmo” for many people, and they transmit “enormous amounts of data,” including details people’s location, Judge Illston wrote in her opinion, which was published online on Thursday. That’s why, she argued, this data deserves special protection.