How Concerned Were the Founding Fathers about Cell Phone Privacy?

It is unlikely that Thomas Jefferson – who was quite a visionary – thought very long about the 4th Amendment and cell phone privacy. After all, it was during the latter part of 1800 that the invention of the electric telephone occurred. 

From time-to-time, Charles Bourseul, Antonio Meucci, Johann Philipp Reis, Alexander Graham Bell, and Elisha Gray, amongst others, have all been credited with the telephone’s invention. The early history of the telephone became and still remains a confusing morass of claims and counterclaims, which were not clarified by the huge mass of lawsuits to resolve the patent claims of many individuals and commercial competitors.

But today, the widespread use of cellphones gives the government a way to locate criminal suspects using a device known as a cell-site simulator. The Maryland Court of Special Appeals recently handed down the first appellate decision on whether and when use of a cell-site simulator to identify the location of a target’s phone is a Fourth Amendment “search.”

The opinion, in State v. Andrews, rules that government use of a cell-site simulator is always a Fourth Amendment search and that it ordinarily requires a warrant.

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