SALT LAKE CITY — Anyone carrying a cellphone could be tracked by the government without their knowledge and without permission — which is why legal scholars are encouraging the Supreme Court to set a few more rules regarding privacy in a digital age.
A case argued Wednesday before the High Court, Carpenter v. United States, is a “once-in-a-generation” case, asking whether it was constitutional for law enforcement to research the location of a suspected armed robber for 127 days through cellphone tower data without a warrant.
The case brings up questions about expectations of privacy for personal data handled by third parties, how police can access that data, and what it means to be searched — questions that some experts worry are beyond the power of digitally naive case law to answer, including the long-standing Fourth Amendment, which protects people from unreasonable government search and seizure.
While the High Court’s ruling isn’t expected until June, several justices expressed concern Wednesday about the idea of broad, warrantless government gathering of personal information.
“The Constitution protects the rights of people to be secure,” said Justice Sonia Sotomayor. “Isn’t it a fundamental concept … that would include the government searching for information about your location every second of the day?”
J. Scott Applewhite, AP
Whether the Supreme Court sides for the convicted robber or the government, experts say either decision will show that technology is continuing to shape everything about society — including its laws.
“It could be a landmark decision,” said James Dempsey, executive director of the Berkeley Center for Law & Technology. “It’s clearly (a case) that implicates pretty much…