‘Geofence Warrant’ for All Cell Location Data From Area Near Robbery Is Ruled Unconstitutional

The judge ruled that the “Geofence warrant” was inconstitutional.Are the police allowed to use Google’s location data in order to locate anyone within a particular area? This is what a federal court does. Recently, he was asked to make a decision.

This case is based on a Virginia bank robbery that occurred in 2019. The police obtained a warrant to search for anyone near the crime scene at the time of the robbery.

U.S. District Judge Hannah Lauck has now held that the search—which relied on cellphone data location histories—violated the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches, since it collected information on myriad people without having any evidence of their involvement in the crime. Lauck stated that “the warrant simply didn’t include any facts to support probable cause to gather such broad-based and intrusive information from each of these people.”

The judge stressed that she was ruling on this particular situation—not on geofence warrants broadly—and there Couldbe constitutional in their usage.

But “the decision — believed to be the first of its kind — could make it more difficult for police to continue using an investigative technique that has exploded in popularity in recent years,” the Associated Press reports. The A.P. was informed by privacy experts. This could impact future rulings regarding warrants for such use:

Jennifer Stisa Granick is the surveillance and cybersecurity lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union. You must seriously think about the effects on people uninvolved and how that privacy will be affected, as well as the power balance between law enforcement and people.

Jennifer Lynch is the surveillance litigation director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. She said that lawyers across the nation could refer to the ruling as it was believed to be the first instance of a federal judge deciding on the constitutionality and legality of a geofence order.

Lynch explained that “it’s useful to other judges see how a judge dealt with it, especially because the technology is new.”

It’s crucial, as the use of geofence warrants by police has risen dramatically.

Google informed the court that geofence warrants make up more than 25% of U.S. warrants that it receives. It also stated that Google received 1,500% of U.S. warrants between 2017-2018 and 500% between 2018-2019.

Geofence warrants are often opposed by privacy and civil liberties groups. They are not necessarily opposed by everyone who is concerned about the Constitution.

Jane Bambauer, a University of Arizona law professor wrote in March that she hoped the Fourth Amendment would not be expanded to prevent technological tools such as geofences which help police carry out more precise and less discretion-based first investigations. Geofences, and other “suspectless” search technologies, can play an important part in police reform and modernization if they are subject to appropriate restrictions.

Professor of law at University of California Berkeley Volokh ConspiracyBlogger Orin Kerr also criticized Lauck’s decision in this case. I am not certain that geofence warrant executions require a Fourth Amendment search.  “If they do, I believe the Fourth Amendment standard will be much less stringent than Judge Lauck has concluded,” he wrote last week. The Fourth Amendment’s application to geofence warrants is a complicated issue. However, I do not think so. [Lauck’s]opinions can point you in the right direction for finding the answers.” Find out more here.


Biden is likely to change Title IX’s rules in a controversial moveThis is the anti-discrimination statute that governs sex, gender and education. Starting The Washington Post[Scott wrote about this yesterday, might be worth linking]

Title IX bans discrimination in education on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Two people with knowledge of a draft regulation that was being considered for publication spoke anonymously because they weren’t allowed to make public comments on this subject.

The power to make regulations is the law. These rules would clash with the state laws barring transgender females from participating in women’s sport if they are approved. These statutes have been challenged by the courts.

A spokesperson for Education Department refused to discuss the content of the proposed regulation. The administration stated it expected to publish the regulations by April.

This sentence is reportedly in the draft of the regulation: Discrimination on the Basis of Sex Includes discrimination on The Basis of Sexual Stereotypes (Including Intersex Traits), Pregnancy or Related Conditions, Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and on the Basis of Sex.

Biden’s administration will also revise, yet again after prior revisions under the Obama or Trump administrations, the rules governing how schools decide on sexual assault and harassment claims. Trump’s era revision included greater due process rights for accused. The current administration will likely revoke them.

As the saying goes, “A reversal here means bad news.” There are reasonsScott Shackford, a student at the University of Texas in Austin, wrote this yesterday. “Public universities have repeatedly been violating due process rights for students who are accused of sexual misconduct. They have taken away their right to defenses as well as the freedom to confront the accusers. Some of the poor practices encouraged by former President Barack Obama’s Department of Education have been stopped by courts.”


Is there another housing bubble? Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas has warned that there could be another housing bubble. A blog posting on the Dallas Fed website states that “rapid real-house price appreciation such as what is being observed right now does not necessarily signal a bubble.” Real house prices may diverge from the market fundamentals if there’s widespread acceptance that current price rises will continue.

Exuberance can lead to economic downturn and “expectations driven explosive appreciation” in real estate prices. The current data shows that exuberance has been evident in the U.S. housing markets for five quarters straight through to third quarter 2021.

What does this mean?

The evidence suggests that the U.S. has been experiencing abnormal housing market behavior since 2000, when it was booming. Reasons for concern are clear in certain economic indicators—the price-to-rent ratio, in particular, and the price-to-income ratio—which show signs that 2021 house prices appear increasingly out of step with fundamentals….

Based on present evidence, there is no expectation that fallout from a housing correction would be comparable to the 2007–09 Global Financial Crisis in terms of magnitude or macroeconomic gravity. The housing boom is not being fuelled by excessive borrowing, but household balances are in better condition.

Importantly, experience from the housing bubble in the early 2000s and the subsequent development of advanced tools for early detection and deployment of warning indicators—some illustrated in this analysis—mean that market participants, banks, policymakers and regulators are all better equipped to assess in real time the significance of a housing boom. This allows them to respond quickly to avoid severe and negative effects from a housing correction.


• The U.S. House of Representatives is set to pass a bill legalizing marijuana. However, it is not known if the Senate will pass the bill.

• Scientists are trying to unlock the secrets of COVID-19 “super immunity.”

• A large new study looks at claims about moderate drinking and heart health.

• Planned Parenthood is challenging Idaho’s new law that bans abortions after six weeks of pregnancy.

• Pandemic policy turned schools into surveillance states.

• An Iowa school choice bill moves forward.

• Why is the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) so determined to ruin useful tech tools that consumers love? Reuters reports that the DOJ “has given new life” to an investigation on Google Maps, in which it sought to find out if bundling Google Maps with other Google products illegally stifles competitors.

• A Los Angeles collective is stepping in to do the work the city won’t: