Criminal courts routinely struggle with the definition of what a Fourth Amendment “reasonable expectation of privacy” means in the digital age. Yet, legislators at the local level remain silent, refusing to strengthen privacy protections from growing government surveillance, according to Andrew Guthrie Ferguson, Law Professor, UDC David A. Clarke School of Law.
The highest profile example of this puzzle will reach the U.S. Supreme Court today, when a lawyer for Timothy Carpenter — a convicted armed robber — will argue to protect the Fourth Amendment for all Americans. The constitutional issue is whether police need a probable cause warrant to request historic cell-site data from cell phone companies to prove that Mr. Carpenter robbed (ironically enough) a series of cell phone stores.
Mr. Carpenter argued that the demand for 127 days of cell location data was a search for Fourth Amendment purposes. The government, in opposition, argued that Mr. Carpenter had no expectation of privacy in the data shared with third parties, and thus no Fourth Amendment protection in the records that connected him to the robberies.
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