Apple, Facebook, and other companies ask Supreme Court to block warrantless cellphone tracking

In a legal brief filed last night, a group of several high-profile technology companies asked the Supreme Court to consider the privacy implications of warrantless law enforcement access to cellphone location data.

The court recently agreed to hear the case Carpenter v. United States, which centers on whether law enforcement can obtain electronic location information without a warrant, if that information is held by a third party. The case will be closely watched, as the court’s decision may have profound implications for privacy in the digital age.

The brief was signed by companies including Apple, Facebook, Google, Airbnb, and Dropbox, who jointly said that “they believe the Court should refine the application of certain Fourth Amendment doctrines to ensure that the law realistically engages with Internet-based technologies and with people’s expectations of privacy in their digital data.”

Arguing that some interpretations of the law “are not sustainable” in the modern world, the tech companies write that the courts should take “a more flexible approach that realistically reflects the privacy people expect in today’s digital environment.”

The ACLU is representing Timothy Carpenter, who was convicted on robbery charges after investigators obtained location information on him without a warrant. The ACLU says the Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments beginning in the fall.