Cops Can Legally Use Your Phone’s Location Data Without a Warrant, Court Rules

July 31, 2013 | Andy Cush

A federal court just ruled that police do not need a warrant to seize your cell phone’s location data, because that data is not protected under the Fourth Amendment. The US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled that location information is “clearly a business record,” and that “the government does not require a member of the public to own or carry a phone… the government merely comes in after the fact and asks a provider to turn over records the provider has already created,” the Verge writes.

A little cold comfort: the ruling only applied to requests for data from a specific phone, so no Batman-style mass surveillance yet. But still this has nasty implications. “There is no cell phone company that doesn’t retain historical cell site location data,” said ACLU Staff Attorney Catherine Crump. “Our Fourth Amendment rights should not depend on the largesse of for-profit corporations.”