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Man Had 7 Months of His Cell Phone Locations Handed Over To Police — Courts Say That's Illegal

Photo by N i c o l a.
Photo by N i c o l a.

By Jenna McLaughlin
A divided appellate court panel in Richmond, Virginia, ruled on Wednesday that citizens do not give up their privacy rights just because their mobile-phone providers know where to reach them.

The decision is the strongest assertion of the Fourth Amendment rights of mobile phone users out of three appellate court decisions on the matter, setting up a likely Supreme Court hearing.

“The tide I think is turning,” said Hanni Fakhoury, a senior staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which joined a friend-of-the-court brief in the case of Aaron Graham, a man convicted of armed robbery after his cell phone location information over seven months was obtained by the government from Sprint.

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling rejected the “third party doctrine,” a legal theory that private information held by a company is not protected by the Fourth Amendment’s prohibitions against unreasonable search and seizure.

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