User Whereabouts on Trial

November 27, 2017  |  By Holly Dragoo

The U.S. Supreme Court is reviewing a groundbreaking case about consumer privacy laws concerning citizen Timothy Carpenter, who alleges his rights were infringed upon when investigators obtained global positioning system (GPS) data from his mobile phone provider without a warrant. The U.S. is arguing that Carpenter has no expectation of privacy because he signed a user agreement with his provider, which allows the vendor to access his location data. A final ruling on the case is expected in December.

IISP Analyst Holly Dragoo: "Fallout from this ruling could range on a spectrum from new end-user license agreements with vendors outlining data handling specifics to tougher requirements to meet for law enforcement to obtain warrants. Personally speaking, while location data can be sensitive in nature, it’s naive to think it has any expectation of privacy when someone can verify your whereabouts visually (yes, an oversimplification), but I am no lawyer. It’s not unlike your address being public information, but you will likely take steps to keep the information relatively private. From what I’ve read about the case, it only concerns the metadata - GPS, IP, cell phone records - not the actual content of calls, emails stored in the cloud, data from wearable technology, etc., -- contrary to what some news sites are claiming."



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