The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania ruled in favor of the Commonwealth on Wednesday, allowing Pennsylvania to use WiFi connection information which police obtained without a warrant to pinpoint the defendant’s location at the time of an on-campus robbery at Moravian College.
In Commonwealth v. Dunkins, prior to gaining access to the Moravian College WiFi network, defendant Dunkins was required to sign the college’s Computing Resources Policy. This policy stated that “users cannot and should not have any expectation of privacy with regard to any data, documents, electronic mail messages, or other computer files created or stored on computers within or connected to the institution’s network.”
The defense compared the facts in Dunkins’ case to that of Carpenter v. United States. The US Supreme Court ruled then that under the Fourth Amendment, police must have a warrant in order to obtain cell-site location information from wireless carrier’s databases.
The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania distinguished Carpenter from Dunkins. The court found that, in Dunkins’ case, the gathering of WiFi connection information was more akin to a tower dump than to the gathering of cell-site location information over an extended period of time. The Supreme Court explicitly declined to express a stance on that during Carpenter.
Because of this, the court ruled that the Commonwealth could use the WiFi connection data without a warrant.