Verizon, Apple, Google and Facebook backed a bid to protect data gathered from mobile handsets in the US, as part of a landmark legal case put forward by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
The companies, which were joined by Microsoft, Twitter, Snap and others, co-signed a Friend of the Court document outlining their position, which was submitted by the ACLU to the US Supreme Court as part of the defence in an appeal hearing.
ACLU’s case surrounds the legality of law enforcement agencies accessing cellular location data without first gaining a warrant. It is part of a bid to quash the conviction of a man jailed partly on evidence collated from location data gathered from his mobile phone provider over a period of several months.
Following the submission of the cellular records and various other pieces of evidence, the defendant was sentenced to 116 years’ imprisonment on six acts of robbery and five counts of using or carrying a firearm in connection with a Federal crime – a sentence he is now appealing.
ACLU argues the use of cellular data gives the authorities power to learn about private details including personal relationships, visits to the doctor and religious practices – all of which are protected under the US constitution.
The US Supreme Court is considering whether a warrant should be required to access cellular data.
The document signed by the telecoms and tech companies read: “Rigid analog-era rules should yield to consideration of reasonable expectations of privacy in the digital age.”
ACLU attorney Nathan Freed Wessler said the tech companies “are sending a very clear message that the law needs to catch up with the technology that is now an integral part of our everyday lives.”