Document Type



Civil Rights and Discrimination | Science and Technology Law


The Supreme Court’s 2018 decision, Carpenter v. United States, seemed to signal a shift in the Court’s Fourth Amendment jurisprudence to acknowledge and adapt to developments in technology. It was a hollow victory. Per Carpenter, if a telecommunications company collected and held your cell phone location data, and law enforcement asked for it, they would need a warrant. But if the location data was repackaged and sold to another company or data broker, and then law enforcement bought the data: no warrant necessary. Why is one exchange of cell phone location data subject to stringent warrant requirements while the other has absolutely no Fourth Amendment protection? This is a glaring omission that fails to reflect the reality of modern data sharing practices, and an easy loophole for law enforcement to take advantage. This Note argues that these two scenarios are functionally equivalent and that the Court should treat like cases alike. Otherwise, transactional smoke and mirrors will bar the meaningful application of Fourth Amendment protections to cell phone location data.