High Court Phone Case Could Crimp Use of Location Data

Fenwick litigator Hanley Chew talked to Law360 about a Supreme Court decision in an article titled “High Court Phone Case Could Crimp Use of Location Data.” The Supreme Court will review Carpenter v. U.S. from 2016, in which the Sixth Circuit ruled that location information could be collected without a warrant.

Chew discussed how the decision will affect both law enforcement agencies and cellphone companies. “Depending on what the Supreme Court says and does in this case, cellphone providers are going to have greater certainty, because the Supreme Court will likely lay out exactly what standard is required for disclosure of cell-site location data to the government,” he told Law360. The decision will determine exactly how much right cellphone companies have to consumers’ location information.

Although law enforcement has used historical cell-site location records, if the Supreme Court sets privacy standards higher, “law enforcement may decide to adopt other investigative techniques,” Chew said.

Chew referenced a previous case from 2012, U.S. v. Jones, and another case from 2014, Riley v. California, in which justices ruled that law enforcement officials could not search suspects’ cellphones without a warrant.

“You would anticipate that the Supreme Court would follow the trend set in Riley and Jones and extend the same protections to cell-site data as to GPS and cellphone data,” Chew said. “It wouldn't make much sense to give the protection of probable cause to one set of data and not the other, but you never know.”

The full article is available through the Law360 website.​