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A Shattered Looking Glass: The Pitfalls and Potential of the Mosaic Theory of Fourth Amendment Privacy

51 Pages Posted: 2 Jul 2013 Last revised: 29 Mar 2014

David C. Gray

University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law

Danielle Keats Citron

University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law; Yale University - Yale Information Society Project; Stanford Law School Center for Internet and Society

Date Written: July 1, 2013

Abstract

On January 23, 2012, the Supreme Court issued a landmark non-decision in United States v. Jones. In that case, officers used a GPS-enabled device to track a suspect’s public movements for four weeks, amassing a considerable amount of data in the process. Although ultimately resolved on narrow grounds, five Justices joined concurring opinions in Jones expressing sympathy for some version of the “mosaic theory” of Fourth Amendment privacy. This theory holds that we maintain reasonable expectations of privacy in certain quantities of information even if we do not have such expectations in the constituent parts. This Article examines and explores the mosaic theory and concludes that it exposes an important quantitative dimension of Fourth Amendment privacy but raises serious practical challenges, which, as we argue elsewhere, can be met by regulating surveillance technologies capable of facilitating broad programs of indiscriminate surveillance.

Suggested Citation

Gray, David C. and Citron, Danielle Keats, A Shattered Looking Glass: The Pitfalls and Potential of the Mosaic Theory of Fourth Amendment Privacy (July 1, 2013). North Carolina Journal of Law and Technology, Vol. 14, No. 2, 2013; U of Maryland Legal Studies Research Paper 2013-33. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2287972

David C. Gray (Contact Author)

University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law ( email )

500 West Baltimore Street
Baltimore, MD 21201-1786
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.umaryland.edu/faculty/profiles/faculty.html?facultynum=598

Danielle Keats Citron

University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law ( email )

500 West Baltimore Street
Baltimore, MD 21201-1786
United States

Yale University - Yale Information Society Project

127 Wall Street
New Haven, CT 06511
United States

Stanford Law School Center for Internet and Society

Palo Alto, CA
United States

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