In the first appellate ruling on a cutting-edge privacy issue, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has declared that cell phone location data may trigger Fourth Amendment concerns and that prosecutors demanding access to such records may be required at times to satisfy a probable cause standard.

The ruling in In re Application of the USA – Electronic Communication Service (pdf) is a setback for the Justice Department, which had argued that judges are required under §2703 of the Stored Communications Act to issue orders for access to such data whenever prosecutors show that it would be “material” and “relevant” to an ongoing investigation.

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