Helen A.S. Popkin
August 16, 2012
[...]On Tuesday, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that law enforcement officials don’t need a warrant to track suspects via cellphones. Attorneys argued to overturn [Melvin] Skinner’s many convictions, citing that the GPS location information that led to the defendant’s arrest was obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment, which guards against unreasonable searches and seizures. This didn’t wash with the majority of judges over the case, who voted in a 2-1 ruling.
“When criminals use modern technological devices to carry out criminal acts and to reduce the possibility of detection, they can hardly complain when the police take advantage of the inherent characteristics of those very devices to catch them,” wrote Judge John Rogers in the majority opinion that will affect future cases in a huge chunk of the country.
Here’s the crux, as it may relate to everyone else: “There is no Fourth Amendment violation because Skinner did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the data given off by his voluntarily procured pay-as-you-go cellphone.” That’s what Judge Rogers stated in the in the majority opinion, where he cited the Stored Communications Act. The law hamstrings the Fourth Amendment in relation to wire and electronic communications — noting that the use of third-party providers diminishes a person’s expectation of privacy