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News Link • Justice and Judges

Cops Can't Collect Your Cell Tower Data Without a Warrant, Court Rules


A three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court in Florida ruled that the government's warrantless collection of a defendant's cell site data violated his reasonable expectation of privacy.

"In short, we hold that cell site location information is within the subscriber's reasonable expectation of privacy," they wrote in their ruling (.pdf). "The obtaining of that data without a warrant is a Fourth Amendment violation."

Although the decision covers only three states — Florida, Georgia, and Alabama — it constitutes the first time that a federal appeals court has ruled in favor of a warrant for cell site data and is being touted by civil liberties groups as a victory in the effort to protect phone users from unreasonable searches and seizures.

"The court's opinion is a resounding defense of the Fourth Amendment's continuing vitality in the digital age," said Nathan Freed Wessler, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union.

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