By Nicholas Iovino, Courthouse News Service
(CN) – Police do not need a warrant to acquire cellphone-location data from wireless companies, the en banc Fourth Circuit ruled Monday, dealing a blow to privacy rights.
The full court heard the case after its three-judge panel split the other way on the issue last year in United States v. Graham (pdf). In that 2015 majority opinion, the panel said consumers have a reasonable expectation of the privacy of their cellphone location data, especially for data covering a long period of time.
Tuesday’s 12-3 ruling (pdf) now says retrieving cellphone location data does not violate the right to privacy.
Police used 221 days of geographic data to secure convictions against Aaron Graham and Eric Jordan, who were put on trial in 2011 for a string of armed robberies committed in Baltimore and Baltimore County.
Siding with police, the court cited the 1979 Supreme Court ruling in Smith v. Maryland, which says no reasonable expectation of privacy exists when citizens willingly share their information with third parties, such as wireless carriers.
“The Fourth Amendment does not protect information voluntarily disclosed to a third party because even a subjective expectation of privacy in such information is ‘not one that society is prepared to recognize as ‘reasonable,’” U.S. Circuit Judge Diana Motz wrote for the Richmond, Virginia-based majority.
Two judges joined a dissent by U.S. Circuit Judge James Wynn that says doctrine should not apply in this situation, as consumers know very little about how wireless…