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Supreme Court declines case on cell data search warrant

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] on Monday declined to rule in Davis v. United States [docket; cert. petition, PDF], Monday, rejecting a case that questioned the necessity of search warrants being presented to wireless carriers when law enforcement requests access to cell phone location data. The case was on appeal [opinion, PDF] from the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit [official website]. Quartavious Davis alleged that his Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure was violated when no warrant was sought or provided by law enforcement to the carrier of his cell data, MetroPCS [corporate website]. A search warrant requires probable cause, but police obtained the appellant's cell location with a court order, requiring less than probable cause, under the Stored Communications Act [text]. The Act does require "specific and articuable facts showing that there are reasonable grounds" to believe the relevance of the records to the investigation. The American Civil Liberties Union [advocacy website] has argued that the statute did not foresee [text] the information made obtainable by modern technology.

Technology continues to raise important privacy questions. In October California Governor Jerry Brown [official website] signed [press release] into law the California Electronic Communications Act (CECA) [text], a law that many are touting as a substantial step forward for digital privacy and protecting users' rights. The law, which was approved alongside more than 10 other bills, bars any state's law enforcement agency or other investigative entity from requesting sensitive metadata from persons or businesses without a warrant [JURIST report]. Also in October the European Court of Justice ruled [JURIST report] that EU user data transferred to the US by various technology companies is not sufficiently protected.

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