A federal appeals court in Atlanta reversed itself in a ruling Tuesday, saying that individuals have no reasonable expectation of privacy in their historical cellphone location records and so the government needs no warrant to obtain them.
The ruling was issued by the full 11-judge court of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, overturning an opinion last year by a three-judge panel.
The case arises out of the 2012 conviction of Quartavious Davis for a string of robberies in the Miami area. He appealed his conviction, in part, on grounds that the cellphone tower records used to place him near the crime scenes were obtained on a court order and should have required a warrant.
Federal investigators obtained Davis’s records with a court order based on “specific and articulable facts” showing “reasonable grounds” to believe that his cell tower location records were “relevant and material” to the investigation. That is a lesser standard than a warrant based on probable cause that the records sought will yield evidence of the crime.
“Cell tower location records do not contain private communications of the subscriber,” the court said in its ruling.