Carpenter v. United States: A Step Further in Privacy Protection but Not Far Enough
Southern University Law Review
23 Pages Posted: 13 Mar 2019
Date Written: February 14, 2019
As of February 2018, approximately 311,600,000 Americans are conveying their location and other personal information to their service providers simply by participating in modern society and using a cell phone. A cell phone creates cell-site location information (“CSLI”) each time it pings a new tower, essentially creating a history of a person’s every move. If the government is able to access this cell-site information from the service providers without the need for a search warrant, a modern day Big Brother would be near in effect. The Supreme Court decided in Carpenter v. United States that people have a reasonable expectation of privacy in their location; however, the opportunity to further strengthen privacy rights was missed.
This Article examines the history and evolution of the Fourth Amendment, the Stored Communications Act, the Third-Party Doctrine, privacy of customer information, and property rights and interest, all in relation to CSLI. The Article further analyzes the Court’s decision in Carpenter and follows Justice Gorsuch’s dissent highlighting the missed opportunity to strengthen privacy rights concerning CSLI. The author asserts that people have a property interest in their CSLI and recommends returning to a traditional approach of the Fourth Amendment by focusing on positive law.
Keywords: cell-site location information, CSLI, Carpenter v. United States, Fourth Amendment, reasonable expectation of privacy
JEL Classification: K00, K10, K19, K30, K39, L96
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation