Judge Claire Eagan - Fourth Amendment (docket no. BR 13-109)Song Rating: 8.83/10
II. Fourth Amendment
The production of telephone service provider metadata is squarely controlled by the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Smith v. Maryland, 442 U.S. 735 (1979). The Smith decision and its progeny have governed Fourth Amendment jurisprudence with regard to telephony and communications metadata for more than 30 years. Specifically, the Smith case involved a Fourth Amendment challenge to the use of a pen register on telephone company equipment to capture information concerning telephone calls,10 but not the content or the identities of the parties to a conversation. Id. at 737, 741 (citing Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347 (1967), and United States v. New York Tel. Co., 434 U.S. 159 (1977)). The same type of information is at issue here.
The Supreme Court in Smith recognized that telephone companies maintain call detail records in the normal course of business for a variety of purposes. Id. at 742 (All subscribers realize ... that the phone company has facilities for making permanent records of the number they dial. ... ). This appreciation is directly applicable to a business records request. Telephone users ... typically know that they must convey numerical information to the phone company; that the phone company has facilities for recording this information; and that the phone company does in fact record this information for a variety of legitimate business purposes. ld. at 743. Furthermore, the Supreme Court found that once a person has transmitted this information to a third party (in this case, a telephone company), the person has no legitimate expectation of privacy in [the] information .... 12 Id. The telephone user, having conveyed this information to a telephone company that retains the information in the ordinary course of business, a**umes the risk that the company will provide that information to the government. See id. at 744. Thus, the Supreme Court concluded that a person does not have a legitimate expectation of privacy in telephone numbers dialed and, therefore, when the government obtained that dialing information, it was not a search, and no warrant was required under the Fourth Amendment. Id. at 746.13
In Smith, the government was obtaining the telephone companys metadata of one person suspected of a crime. See id. at 737. Here, the government is requesting daily production of certain telephony metadata in bulk belonging to companies without specifying the particular number of an individual. This Court had reason to analyze this distinction in a similar context in [HEAVILY REDACTED]. In that case, this Court found that regarding the breadth of the proposed surveillance, it is noteworthy that the application of the Fourth Amendment depends on the governments intruding into some individuals reasonable expectation of privacy. Id. at 62. The Court noted that Fourth Amendment rights are personal and individual, see id. (citing Steagald v. United States, 451 U.S. 204, 219 (1981); accord, e.g.,Rakas v. Illinois, 439 U.S. 128, 133 (1978) (Fourth Amendment rights are personal rights which...may not be vicariously a**erted.,) (quoting Alderman v. United States, 394 U.S. 165, 174 (1969))), and that [s]o long as no individual has a reasonable expectation of privacy in meta data, the large number of persons whose communications will be subjected to the...surveillance is irrelevant to the issue of whether a Fourth Amendment search or seizure will occur. Id. at 63. Put another way, where one individual does not have a Fourth Amendment interest, grouping together a large number of similarly-situated individuals cannot result in a Fourth Amendment interest springing into existence ex nihilo.
In sum, because the Application at issue here concerns only the production of call detail records or telephony metadata belonging to a telephone company, and not the contents of communications, Smith v. Maryland compels the conclusion that there is no Fourth Amendment impediment to the collection. Furthermore, for the reasons stated in [HEAVILY REDACTED] and discussed above, this Court finds that the volume of records being acquired does not alter this conclusion. Indeed, there is no legal basis for this Court to find otherwise.
Date of text publication: 17.01.2021 at 08:25