Phone records

US v. Aaron Graham

January 22, 2016

Graham was convicted of robbery. In the course of the prosecution, the government requested a court order under the Stored Communications Act compelling Sprint, Graham's phone provider, to disclose 221 days of historical cell site location information (CSLI). Graham moved to suppress the CSLI, arguing that the warrantless acquisition of location information is an unconstitutional search. A Fourth Circuit panel held the order violated the Fourth Amendment. The case is now being reheard en banc. We argued that the Fourth Circuit "should consider the First Amendment interests that warrantless acquisition of communications information implicates when it resolves the Fourth Amendment questions presented by Graham’s appeal." The Fourth Amendment is rooted in the Framers' concerns about safeguarding printers and the press. As a result, Fourth Amendment protections must be applied with rigor when First Amendment rights are at stake.

Davis v. United States

August 27, 2015

Davis is challenging the constitutionality of a provision of the Stored Communications Act that permits law enforcement to obtain a court order to compel disclosure of historical location information by a cellular phone service provider. The en banc U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit ruled that the disclosure was not a search for purposes of the Fourth Amendment. Davis is seeking a writ of certiorari before the United States Supreme Court. The compelled disclosure of historical location data implicates important First and Fourth Amendment rights. Location data can reveal sensitive, private information, including information about associational and expressive activities that are protected by the First Amendment. Fourth Amendment protections must be applied with particular rigor when First Amendment rights are at stake.

Supreme Court requires police to obtain warrants before searching cell phones

Bradleigh Chance | Reporter's Privilege | News | June 25, 2014
June 25, 2014

The Supreme Court handed down a unanimous decision in favor of digital privacy Wednesday that says police generally need a search warrant to examine an arrested person’s cell phone.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote a sweeping opinion, stating that digital devices contain collections of potentially sensitive information. The Court rejected arguments that searching a cellphone is akin to examining anything else officers might find on someone they arrest.

“Modern cell phones, as a category, implicate privacy concerns far beyond those implicated by the search of a cigarette pack, a wallet, or a purse,” Roberts wrote.

The opinion still allows police to search cell phones without warrants under “exigent circumstances.” This includes “ticking-bomb scenarios” or instances when there’s reason to believe evidence is going to be destroyed.

ACLU v. Clapper

September 4, 2013

The Reporters Committee and 18 other news organizations filed a brief in the ACLU's case seeking a preliminary injunction against the National Security Agency's collection of telephone toll records from communication service providers. The media groups stressed to the court how such surveillance affects newsgathering and interferes with the ability of reporters to promise confidentiality to their sources.

Senate Judiciary Committee amends shield bill to strengthen protections, but defers final vote

Jeff Zalesin | Reporter's Privilege | News | August 1, 2013
August 1, 2013

The Senate Judiciary Committee strengthened the proposed federal shield law today by incorporating some of the Justice Department's recommendations on protecting journalists, but then delayed a final vote on the bill.

Holder expresses support for federal shield bill amendments adding judicial role to notice process

Jeff Zalesin | Reporter's Privilege | News | July 30, 2013
July 30, 2013

The Department of Justice is backing a bipartisan effort to turn parts of the department's report on news media policies into federal shield law provisions, Attorney General Eric Holder announced yesterday in a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman.

Connecticut passes law restricting access to Newtown shooting, other police records

Amy Zhang | Freedom of Information | News | June 7, 2013
June 7, 2013

Reporters covering homicides in Connecticut won't have access to investigation photographs and 911 recordings describing victim conditions under a new law prompted by families of Newtown shooting victims and signed by the governor this week.

Media coalition letter to the Department of Justice regarding AP subpoena

May 14, 2013

The Reporters Committee and 51 news organizations wrote to the Department of Justice, vigorously protesting the overbroad subpoena of two months of phone records of the Associated Press.

Federal court finds Bloomberg's publication of copyrighted conference call recording to be fair use

Raymond Baldino | Content Regulation | News | May 22, 2012
May 22, 2012

A federal court last week rejected a copyright infringement lawsuit against Bloomberg L.P. for its unauthorized publication of a conference call between a corporation's senior executives and a group of securities analysts, finding that the business and financial news publisher was protected from liability by the fair use doctrine.

Court orders officials to release government cell phone info

Aaron Mackey | Freedom of Information | Feature | July 15, 2011
July 15, 2011

New Jersey officials who use taxpayer funded cell phones cannot keep information on the destination of outgoing calls secret, a state appellate court ruled earlier this week.