People across Pennsylvania, and throughout the nation, keep their cell phones close at hand almost constantly and use them for communicating, as well as for numerous other tasks, such as taking photos and getting directions. While the technology helps greatly in daily life, the information our phones both store and transmit is often at issue in criminal cases.
As NBC News reports, the U.S. Supreme Court has decided to hear a case concerning the legality of using phones’ cell tower location data to track those suspected of committing crimes. This information is created through calls and texts using the nearest cell phone tower to connect to the network and transmit the message or call. As a person goes through his or her day using the phone for calls and texts, the various towers used to complete these communications are reported, and the phone companies stores this data. Gaining access to the information can help law enforcement to track the movements a person made on a certain day, and some feel the use of this data is a violation of privacy. The case, which will be heard in the fall, will determine whether officers need a search warrant to access the location data cell phone generate.
This is not the first time cell phones have come under scrutiny by the high court. As CNN reports, a unanimous decision in 2014 determined that in order to search a cell phone or other personal electronics, even in an initial pat-down, law enforcement must obtain a search warrant. Unlike wallets and briefcases, the court found that cell phones pose no risk to an officer’s immediate safety and contain a massive amount of private personal information that should not be subject to a warrantless search.