The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to take up a major constitutional test of digital privacy, agreeing to consider whether prosecutors need a warrant to obtain mobile-phone tower records that show someone’s location over days or even months.
Critics say prosecutors obtain massive amounts of data without ever having to meet the “probable cause” standards for a search warrant. The largest telecommunications providers receive tens of thousands of requests for location information a year under the 1986 Stored Communications Act, which doesn’t require a warrant.
The court will hear an appeal from Timothy Ivory Carpenter, who is seeking to overturn his conviction for taking part in nine armed robberies of Radio Shacks and T-Mobile stores in the Detroit area. At trial, prosecutors used data obtained from mobile-phone carriers to show that Carpenter was within a half-mile to two miles of the location of each of the robberies when they occurred.
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