Supreme Court’s Carpenter Ruling Protects Fundamental Rights

June 22, 2018, Arlington, VA – The U.S. Supreme Court today issued its ruling in Carpenter vs. United States, holding that law enforcement cannot obtain without a warrant the historical records of an individual’s movements as tracked by cellphone towers. Timothy Carpenter, was convicted based on cell tower records tracking his movements for 127 days, obtained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation without a warrant.

After the ruling, Casey Mattox, senior fellow for Free Speech and Toleration at the Charles Koch Institute said:

“The Court’s opinion is a major victory for individual privacy from government in a digital age. Americans are inseparable from their phones. If police can track our phone without a warrant, they can track our religious and political associations. Consider the implications for media alone. Without such privacy, reporters and sources would be exposed to constant watch by the very officials they cover, and continuing technological advancements permitting ever closer tracking of our phones just raise the stakes.

People should be free to live their lives without limitless watch by those in government. This ruling affirms that essential principle.”

To support a better understanding of privacy in a digital age, the Charles Koch Foundation supports partners such as those at the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers Fourth Amendment Center, which will help provide resources to criminal defense lawyers facing charges resulting from unwarranted government surveillance. The Foundation also supports scholars such as those at the Knight First Amendment Center at Columbia University, working to understand the design, rights, and obligations of digital forums to enable an open exchange of ideas and social progress. To learn more, visit the Foundation’s request for proposals.

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