The Mosaic Theory: Implications for Cell Site Location Tracking

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Rumsey, Robert Benjamin
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Middle Tennessee State University
The purpose of the work is to confront and discuss the unique legal and privacy implications that cell site location data tracking through service providers poses for current Fourth Amendment jurisprudence. After a brief explanation of how cell phone tracking works, discussion is directed to the early Framers' intent in configuring the Fourth Amendment and then examines the notion of privacy under the Fourth Amendment both prior to and following the seminal Supreme Court decision of Katz v. United States (1967), including a review of the Supreme Court's historical treatment of tracking devices post-Katz. The paper reviews the third-party assumption of risk doctrine, which currently allows the government to collect information where such information has been revealed to a third-party for a limited business purpose. Finally, consideration is directed to the Maynard Court's utilization of the "mosaic" theory in a Fourth Amendment search framework and how its adoption of the mosaic created a novel approach for countering the government's reliance on the third-party assumption of risk doctrine. It is maintained that when the time comes for the Supreme Court to review the issue of cell site location tracking that the mosaic theory will inform and fashion the Court's decision to broaden privacy protections under the Fourth Amendment.
4th Amendment, Location Tracking, Mosaic Theory, Right To Privacy