Apple and Other Companies File Brief Arguing Against 'Rigid Analog-Era' Fourth Amendment Rules

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Apple, Twitter, Snap, Facebook, Microsoft, and a collection of other technology companies have filed a legal brief this week, aimed at the Fourth Amendment and its "rigid analog-era" protections that lag behind protecting users in the modern age (via Reuters).

The brief was filed in regards to the case Carpenter v. United States, which is a Supreme Court case focusing on the warrantless search and seizure of historical smartphone records, and whether or not such data collection by the government is prohibited by the Fourth Amendment's protection against unreasonable search and seizures.

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Carpenter v. United States specifically ties to smartphone data held by a third party -- or any company that has access and can store personal user data -- and includes information revealing the "location and movements" of the user over 127 days.

With the new filing, which is in support of neither party, the companies state that customers should not be "forced to relinquish Fourth Amendment protections" against intrusion by the government, simply because they choose to use modern technology.

"To resolve this case, the Court should forgo reliance on outmoded rules that make little sense when applied in the digital context. In particular, the third-party doctrine and the content/non-content distinction should not operate to categorically foreclose Fourth Amendment protection; instead, Fourth Amendment law should favor a more flexible approach that assess reasonable expectations of privacy in light of new and evolving technologies and the highly sensitive data they implicate."

Other companies included in the brief included Airbnb, Google, and Dropbox. The case in question dates back to 2011, when Timothy Carpenter was convicted on robbery charges after investigators uncovered smartphone data with his past location information without a warrant. The Supreme Court agreed to review the case in June 2017, and it's now on the Court's term docket for October 2017.

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

Top Rated Comments

HEK Avatar
45 months ago

If you don't want to be tracked, don't use a freaking tracking device...aka iPhone/android. Duh.

Everyone (by now) should realize that these things are spying devices. Use accordingly.

Go back 20 years in time:
Imagine if government had come to you 20 years ago and said they want you to carry a tracking/spying tool that would report everything you do, say, text, mail. And they want you to purchase it with your own money and get new one every year or two. What would you have told the government?

Back to present time:
Well guess what, you said yes, gladly, where do I sign up.

Think about it. Privacy, liberty, freedom, are eroded in small incremental bits from within. And always to keep you safe from latest boogy man. Oh my god the terrorists are coming save me.

And they call patriots like Snowden, criminals.
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)
IJ Reilly Avatar
45 months ago


and whether or not such data collection by the government is violated by the Fourth Amendment's protection against unreasonable search and seizures.

I think the word you were seeking here is "prohibited."
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
needfx Avatar
45 months ago
on a happier note, I thought the sprinkler on the left was a smudge on my screen
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
ApfelKuchen Avatar
45 months ago

If these companies were really against the use of this information, they wouldn't collect the information in the first place and would respect their users' privacy.

Information often has to be retained. From the consumer's standpoint, they want some sort of basis for the bill they receive. "We swear you made $125 worth of calls last month, but we can't tell you what they were" doesn't work very well. You can't be sure today's unlimited calling plans wouldn't return to time-and-distance, if it suited phone company interests. Fraud is much easier when there's no evidence left behind. Billing records need to be retained for tax purposes, and to satisfy regulatory agencies. And yes, investigative/surveillance agencies want access to the info when desired. If they must obtain a warrant before they can obtain phone records, they expect those records to be there when they produce the warrant. If they can obtain the records on demand... the law will still require records retention.

So, the companies may not have a choice as to whether to retain the records. What the companies want today addresses that last part - whether a simple government demand is all that's needed to get those records, or whether there are constitutional protections in place.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
thisisnotmyname Avatar
45 months ago

"With the new filing, which is in support of neither party, the companies state that customers should not be "forced to relinquish Fourth Amendment protections" against intrusion by the government, simply because they choose to use modern technology."
To me it appears the filing, while not in support of Carpenter, certainly is against the government's claim to use the data. By weakening the government's claim, they are strengthening Carpenter's case.
It seems to me that these companies could support their filing by NOT STORING USER DATA. Yes, some data needs to be stored by companies for the purpose of billing but the tracking of people certainly seems to me as something that these companies don't need to keep on their servers.
One might contend that these companies are saying it is okay for them to keep the public's data for the purpose of generating revenue for themselves but not for the public's safety at large.

It would certainly be nice though if we all didn't have to avoid any cloud storage and computing just to maintain our constitutional rights. Encryption of which only I hold the key gives us some technological protection against overreach but then I can't take advantage of processing that may require a third party to have limited access.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
AZ63 Avatar
45 months ago
"With the new filing, which is in support of neither party, the companies state that customers should not be "forced to relinquish Fourth Amendment protections" against intrusion by the government, simply because they choose to use modern technology."
To me it appears the filing, while not in support of Carpenter, certainly is against the government's claim to use the data. By weakening the government's claim, they are strengthening Carpenter's case.
It seems to me that these companies could support their filing by NOT STORING USER DATA. Yes, some data needs to be stored by companies for the purpose of billing but the tracking of people certainly seems to me as something that these companies don't need to keep on their servers.
One might contend that these companies are saying it is okay for them to keep the public's data for the purpose of generating revenue for themselves but not for the public's safety at large.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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