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Unpublished Paper
Has Skinner Killed the Katz? Are Society's Expectations of Privacy Reasonable in Today's Techological World?
Phoenix School of Law (2013)
  • Jason Forcier
The right to privacy has and will remain a hotly contested debate about American liberties. In 2012, a 3-0 decision by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, in United States v. Melvin Skinner, the court held that there is no “reasonable expectation of privacy in the data given off by. . . cellphone[s].” Given today’s explosion of cellular technology and use of smart phones, is it unreasonable to believe a person should remain secure in their "person" and “effects," as guaranteed under the Fourth Amendment, from unreasonable searches and seizures? Furthermore, with police requiring only a subpoena to a obtain cellphone provider’s business records, does the ability to triangulate a person’s cellphone by actively “pinging” it constitute a ‘business record,’ or to track a person’s cell phone using a “Stingray” device? In 1967, the Supreme Court overruled Omstead v. United States, in the famous case Katz v. United States, and restricted government electronic surveillance of telecommunications. Following on the heals of the 2012 Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Jones, the Court left a number of questions unanswered about offensive nontrespassory surveillance and tracking by manipulating cellular communication technology. This article examines the concurring opinions in Jones with the issue of cell phone tracking in Skinner, and analyzes the opinions of Justice Alito and Justice Sotomayor. Together with the opinions in Jones and the actions of Congress and state legislatures, has the time now come to update America’s privacy laws and search warrant requirements with regard to telecommunications, similar to how Katz changed how society and law enforcement view telephone privacy, or has Skinner killed Katz, ending the expectation of privacy with cellular communications and devices, especially with the disclosure of geolocation information.
  • Jones,
  • Skinner,
  • Katz,
  • Cellphone,
  • cell phone,
  • privacy,
  • Fourth Amendment,
  • Stingray
Publication Date
May, 2013
Citation Information
Jason Forcier. "Has Skinner Killed the Katz? Are Society's Expectations of Privacy Reasonable in Today's Techological World?" Phoenix School of Law (2013)
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