The Curious Case of Cell Phone Location Data: Fourth Amendment Doctrine Mash-Up

Bedi, Monu | October 29, 2015

In the essay, Professor Bedi discusses a prominent issue in Fourth Amendment jurisprudence: whether an individual’s cell phone location data is constitutionally protected. The emergence of this data and law enforcement’s attempts to utilize it have raised new questions about the reach of the third-party and public disclosure doctrines, which have traditionally rendered the Fourth Amendment inapplicable to seemingly similar data in certain circumstances. Bedi explores these new questions, providing a helpful overview of the different manifestations of this data and a critical survey of lower courts’ varying approaches to law enforcement’s attempts at securing it. Ultimately, Bedi argues for a new way of understanding the third-party and public disclosure doctrines, arguing that, in the cell phone location data context, attention is best placed on the type of data and the context in which law enforcement acts.