Comment of Senator Leahy On The Supreme Court’s Decision On Cell-Site Location Information, In Carpenter v. U.S.

The U.S. Supreme Court Friday issued an opinion in Carpenter v. U.S., holding that the Fourth Amendment generally requires the government to obtain a warrant to obtain geolocation information through cell-site location information.  Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), a leading member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and the lead sponsor of the bipartisan Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) Modernization Act (S.1657), released the following comment:

“The Supreme Court’s decision perfectly illustrates that old legal constructions, like the third-party doctrine, struggle to keep up with our ‘seismic shifts in digital technology.’  As more and more of our sensitive information is held by third parties, this decision is a step forward in ensuring that our most private information — our communications, our photos, our financial and medical records, our every location — receives the Fourth Amendment protection it deserves. 

“But Congress must not rely on the courts to modernize our antiquated privacy laws.  My ECPA Modernization Act, which I introduced with Senator Lee, would have required a warrant for precisely the type of geolocation information at issue in Carpenter.  It would also close other major loopholes in protecting our Fourth Amendment privacy rights, like requiring a warrant for electronic content.  Congress must not abdicate its own responsibilities as technology advances, and it should quickly take up our legislation to accomplish these key reforms.”

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