The Aftermath of the U.S. v. Jones Ruling

By TAP Staff Blogger

Posted on May 16, 2012

As mentioned in an earlier post, TAP attended the 2012 State of the Mobile Net Conference held in Washington, DC.

The second panel of the day, Location Tracking by the Government After Jones: What Jones Tells Us About Mobile Phone and App Tracking, explored last month’s Supreme Court ruling on U.S. v. Jones that found the Department of Justice (DOJ) improperly placed a GPS tracking device on a drug suspect’s car without first obtaining a warrant. The ruling that stunned legal scholars also left many questions unanswered, particularly about whether the government needs a warrant to obtain location from cell phone records and other location devices.

The panel, moderated by Sharon Bradford Franklin, Senior Counsel for The Constitution Project, featured Greg Nojeim, Senior Counsel for the Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT), and Jason Weinstein, Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the United States Department of Justice. CDT’s Nojeim argued that courts haven’t been consistent and that there should be a warrant for probable cause in both prospective and retrospective cases. On the other side of the issue, Weinstein said that although the DOJ pushes to get a search warrant whenever it isn’t clear whether one is necessary, many of the cases with DOJ don’t start with probable cause. He argued that requiring probable cause would cripple the DOJ’s ability to solve crimes.

With no standard in place, both Nojeim and Weinstein believe that Congress needs to get involved; it’s just the actual rulings they disagree on.

You can view the video of the panel on location tracking. If you would like more information on this case, you can read Paul Ohm’s thoughts on the outcome of U.S. v. Jones: “United States v. Jones is a Near-Optimal Result.”