Conservative Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, whose appointment is often cited by Donald Trump as one of the chief achievements of his presidency, is siding with the liberal side of the bench in a privacy case involving law enforcement’s unrestricted access to citizens’ mobile phone records.
The case involves a felon whose cellphone history helped convict him in a string of robberies (including a RadioShack and T-Mobile store). His mobile carrier readily handed over reams of records to the FBI without a warrant, a common and legal practice, which confirmed his phone’s proximity to the crimes.
In hearing the case, Gorsuch suggested that the information was the sole property of the phone’s owner, mirroring concerns over “Big Brother” by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, a President Obama appointee.
But conservative Justices Samuel Alito and Anthony Kennedy seemed to side with the government, which failed to see any violation of Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches, given the lesser standard required for gathering phone data under the 31-year-old Stored Communications Act.
Still, most of the justices agreed that it may be time for new restraints on government access to personal data given recent advances in digital technology.