ShareThis Page
Editorials

Trib editorial: High court must reaffirm warrants

| Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017, 8:33 p.m.

In what's become a hot-button case before the U.S. Supreme Court, the justices will determine whether authorities can track the whereabouts of Americans based on cellphone data without the need for warrants.

In a hearing last week before the high court, government lawyers argued that the cellphone records in question belong to telecoms, not their customers, so the Fourth Amendment's privacy protection does not apply. The issue stems from the case of Timothy Ivory Carpenter, convicted of a series of robberies after police tracked his location, without a warrant, based on 127 days' worth of data from his wireless carrier.

The government argued that this is “routing information” and not the specific content of citizens' cellphones or conversations.

But the Supreme Court previously ruled that GPS tracking counts as a search under the Fourth Amendment and requires a warrant. And consider as well the chilling effect that warrantless snooping, enabled by phone companies' records, would have on news reporters and their sources.

As Matthew Feeney of the libertarian Cato Institute pointed out, the expectation of privacy extends to cellphone location information, “which the majority of Americans considers to be sensitive information.”

The case before the Supreme Court provides an opportunity to reinforce citizens' right to privacy in an era of evolving communication. In this regard, the march of technology must not trample the need to obtain warrants.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me