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Hacking and Surveillance: Major Tech Issues at SCOTUS This Term

By George Khoury, Esq. on October 04, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Every year, the Supreme Court takes up a case or two that help to clarify how recent technological advancements should be analyzed under the law. This term is no different, with SCOTUS having agreed to hear the Carpenter case, which could lead to significant changes in how law enforcement officers obtain cell phone metadata during investigations.

However, even cases that are not directly about technology can often make waves throughout the tech community. For example the Chrisie v. NCAA case could change the landscape, nationwide, for online sports gambling. Additionally, a few pending cases that may be taken up this term could upend some everyday tech practices for both corporations and individuals.

Carpenter and Christie

In Carpenter v. United States, SCOTUS is being asked to decide whether law enforcement can obtain an individual's GPS location data from a cell phone directly from cell phone service providers without a warrant. Previously, the High Court has held that to search a cell phone after an arrest requires a warrant, but the issue of a search of a cell phone's metadata has not been decided.

In Christie v. NCAA, SCOTUS is being asked to set aside the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act. If it agrees to do so, online gamblers in the U.S. will no longer need to find creative ways to place bets, or resort to less than reputable off-shore gaming websites.

Microsoft and Nosal: Pending Cases

In Microsoft v. United States, a case which is pending acceptance, the Supreme Court could clarify the confusion regarding when a company must produce data that is stored on overseas servers. As it stands now, if a company's data is stored abroad, and only abroad, it may be safe. But if that data is chopped up and stored in multiple places, or is constantly being moved around, then it will be less safe from being compelled.

Perhaps most troubling of all the tech cases is the Nosal v. United States case. There, the High Court's ruling could make sharing a password with another person for a subscription based website, like Netflix, a crime under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

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