Bend and Snap: Adding Flexibility to the Carpenter Inquiry

By Sherwin Nam

The Supreme Court’s decision in Carpenter v. United States, which requires law enforcement to obtain warrants to access historical cell-site location information, raises new questions about the application of the Fourth Amendment to biometric technologies, such as facial recognition technology (FRT) and voice recognition technology (VRT). While “no single rubric definitively resolves which expectations of privacy are entitled to protection,” this Note seeks to demonstrate that current applications of the rubric offered in Carpenter — considering voluntariness, invasiveness, comprehensiveness, ease of data collection, and retrospectivity — are inadequately flexible. To safeguard the private and intimate details that ongoing “seismic shifts in digital technology” continue to reveal, the courts need a bolder, more robust framework for Fourth Amendment protection. Using FRT and VRT as illustrative examples, this Note argues that analyses of reasonable expectations of privacy involving biometric technologies should recognize the right to anonymity as an integral part of the Carpenter inquiry.

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