Google, Facebook, Other Tech Companies Ask Supreme Court To Protect Digital Privacy

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Timothy Carpenter, the spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), who was charged with theft after law enforcement agencies received data about him without a warrant, told the edition that the Supreme Court will consider this statement in the fall.

Last night saw some of the biggest tech firms in the world come together the battle against warrantless police wanting access to mobile location data.

Google, Microsoft, Facebook and other tech companies are urging the Supreme Court to rule that digital data is entitled to "strong" protections against searches by the police. "Fourth Amendment doctrine must adapt to this new reality".

Notwithstanding that technology companies may use or share the data to increase revenue, they are justifiably concerned that lack of a Fourth Amendment barrier will make people think twice about using digital services that create revenue-generating data.

The issue is central to the appeal filed by Timothy Carpenter, who was convicted in 2011 of a series of armed robberies in OH and MI with the help of past cell phone location data.

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Mr. Carpenter was convicted at trial and appealed to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled 2 to 1 that no warrant was required under the Fourth Amendment.

Apple and other tech companies are not arguing that law enforcement officials shouldn't be able to obtain location data from cellphone records, only that doing so should require a warrant.

In their brief, the companies said the Supreme Court should clarify that when it comes to digital data that can reveal personal information, people should not lose protections against government intrusion "simply by choosing to use those technologies". In 2012, the Supreme Court ruled that the police violated a suspect's rights by installing a Global Positioning System device on his auto without a warrant.

But the major players that signed it - including Airbnb, Cisco, Dropbox and Verizon, the only telecom giant to sign - do argue the need for greater Fourth Amendment safeguards "to ensure that the law realistically engages with Internet-based technologies and with people's expectations of privacy in their digital data". "Consistent with the general reasonable-expectation-of-privacy inquiry, courts should focus on the sensitivity of the data at issue and the circumstances of its transmission to third parties".

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