The U.S. Supreme Court has handed down a major decision, Carpenter v. United States,1 concerning the Fourth Amendment’s application to the rapidly evolving technological landscape. The 5-4 decision dramatically alters the status quo concerning government requests for data about individuals that is collected and held by third parties. Under Carpenter, personal location information maintained by a third party that the government could previously obtain with a subpoena or similar order will now require a warrant meeting the standards of the Fourth Amendment.
By finding that information held by a third party is—in at least some circumstances—protected by the Fourth Amendment, the Supreme Court has upended decades of precedent in an effort to keep the amendment relevant in the digital age. Although portrayed by the court as a narrow decision, like other recent Supreme Court decisions concerning privacy and the Fourth Amendment, Carpenter will likely result in a broad reconsideration of what information law enforcement can properly obtain without a warrant. Companies will now have to carefully consider their statements regarding the sharing of data with law enforcement, and how they will respond to law enforcement agencies’ requests for data without a warrant. Continue Reading