In SCOTUS Cell Phone Data Case, New Hampshire AG Sides With Warrant-Free Searches

Nov 30, 2017

The United States Supreme Court, in Washington, D.C.
Credit Jarek Tuszyński/Wikimedia

The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments Wednesday in a case concerning law enforcement's access to cell phone tracking data, and what constitutes a reasonable search under the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment.

New Hampshire’s Attorney General Gordon MacDonald joined 18 other state Attorneys General in support of the government’s position that law enforcement doesn’t need a search warrant to obtain cell phone tracking data kept by wireless providers.  

The state prosecutors filed a “friend of the court” brief on the matter in October, arguing that there is no expectation of privacy when you share information with a third party, such as a wireless provider.

“The Fourth Amendment protects ‘the right of the people to be secure in their…papers,’ not in the papers of others,” write the Attorneys General.

The ACLU, however, argued in court that round-the-clock data recording by cell phones, including a person’s location, mark a technological shift in who can access third party data. The civil liberties group says such pervasive information should only be available if a search warrant is approved by a judge.

New Hampshire State representative Neal Kurk, long a champion of privacy rights in the state, told the Concord Monitor that unless a warrant is issued, “the state has no business knowing where its citizens are.” That higher standard is currently law in the state of New Hampshire.