Our personal information is constantly being collected by third parties without our realization. Every time we use one of our devices, we expose personal details and information to collection by any number of entities that use the data for various purposes. Privacy is clearly on the decline as the use of one device or another becomes a standard and unavoidable part of life. An individual cannot be part of modern society absent a cell phone and/or computer. These facts all have serious implications for criminal defendants.
In 1979, the United States Supreme Court decided Smith v. Maryland. There the Court discussed what has become known as the “Third Party Doctrine”, which provides that individuals do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in information voluntarily given to a third party (e.g., telephone carrier or bank). This information is then available to Government agencies, including law enforcement agencies.
The Court is now scheduled to hear a case that asks what the police and prosecutors can legitimately do with personal data that is collected from third parties. Carpenter v. United States could greatly alter Fourth Amendment principles and procedures as they must be applied in cases involving data resulting from the use of cellphones, computers, and similar devices. Continue reading