Good Law | Bad Law #86 – How Private is Your Cell Phone? w/ Susan Freiwald

Aaron Freiwald, Managing Partner of Freiwald Law and host of the weekly podcast series Good Law | Bad Law, is joined by a very special guest this week, Dean Susan Freiwald, to discuss one of the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Carpenter V. United States,, and the implications this ruling may have in the area of digital communications and privacy.


Dean of the Law School at the University of San Francisco, Susan Freiwald is one of the country’s leading experts on the intersection of law and new technology, specifically cell phone technology, internet technology, and privacy.  She also happens to be Aaron’s sister. A Harvard Law graduate, former classmate of President Barak Obama, and a former software developer, Susan joined the University of San Francisco in 1997 teaching privacy, internet law and first year law classes such as contracts law and criminal procedure.  She has authored and co-authored several amicus briefs in major appellate cases regarding surveillance laws and her academic work has been cited in numerous state and federal court decisions.


In today’s episode, Aaron and Susan discuss the Carpenter case and what the Supreme Court’s ruling might mean.  The case explores the reach of the Fourth Amendment’s “search and seizure” clause and questions surrounding privacy and the government’s ability to access certain information. The Fourth Amendment helps set a constitutional floor by attempting to regulate the investigative methods used by law enforcement and other government agents and is intended to protect our security and individual liberty against excessive police power by the government.


After a series of armed robberies, law enforcement acquired data from Timothy Carpenter’s cell phone service providers. Through this cell site data, which was collected without probable cause and a warrant,, investigators were able to pinpoint where Mr. Carpenter was during the time of the robberies. However, not only did investigators receive this information, they were also privy to a lot more about Mr. Carpenter. This influential ruling not only concerns Mr. Carpenter’s rights, but the constitutional rights of all citizens. Throughout this episode, Aaron and Susan explain the ins and outs of what cell data is comprised of and just how easy it is to learn intimate details about people solely based on it and what requirements the government should have to meet to gain access to this type of information.


To learn more about the Carpenter case and the decision the Justices reached, as well as more about our cell phone usage and what is protected under the Fourth Amendment, listen now. What are the implications of this ruling, how does it mean the Fourth Amendment will be understood moving forward in regards to new technology and how will this bode for future disputes? Find out!


Host: Aaron Freiwald

Guest: Susan Freiwald


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