The Cyberlaw Clinic filed an amicus brief (PDF) this week in the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts (ACLUM) and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) in Commonwealth v. Estabrook, SJC–11833. The case concerns location privacy and cell phone technology — specifically, whether law enforcement can gather a large amount of cell phone location information if it only plans to use a small fraction of that information in a prosecution. This is the third brief the Clinic has filed on location privacy issues in Massachusetts, including briefs for EFF in Commonwealth v. Augustine and Commonwealth v. Rousseau in 2013.
Cellular service providers must know where their subscribers are at any given time to provide them with service. Providers therefore collect vast quantities of location information, tracking the movements of customers wherever they go. Last year, in Augustine, 467 Mass. 230 (2014), the Supreme Judicial Court ruled that, in general, the police must get a search warrant to obtain location information from a cellular service provider. The ruling left open the possibility, however, that the police might be able to obtain a “brief period” of location information without a warrant but, instead, with a court order that is considerably easier to obtain.
Continue reading here.