Electronic Surveillance and Law Enforcement Access

Last week, the Ninth Circuit held in United States v. Wilson, No. 18-50440, 2021 WL 4270847, that a law enforcement officer violated a criminal defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights when he opened images attached to the defendant’s emails without a warrant, even though the images had previously been flagged as child sexual abuse materials (“CSAM”) by Google’s automated CSAM-detection software.  The court based its ruling on the private search exception to the Fourth Amendment, which permits law enforcement to conduct a warrantless search only to the extent the search was previously conducted by a private party.  Because no individual at Google actually opened and viewed the images flagged as CSAM, the court held that law enforcement “exceeded the scope of the antecedent private search,” thereby “exceed[ing] the limits of the private search exception.”  Op. at 20-21.

Continue Reading Ninth Circuit’s Interpretation of Private Search Exception to the Fourth Amendment Contributes to “Growing Tension” Among Circuit Courts

On March 31st, Washington Governor Jay Inslee signed into law SB 6280, a bill aimed at regulating state and local government agencies’ use of facial recognition services.  An overview of the law’s provisions can be found here.

Notably, Governor Inslee vetoed Section 10 of the bill, which aimed to establish a legislative

On March 12, 2020, Washington’s state legislature passed SB 6280, a bill that will regulate state and local government agencies’ use of facial recognition services (“FRS’s”).  The bill aims to create a legal framework by which agencies may use FRS’s to the benefit of society (for example, by assisting agencies in locating missing or deceased persons), but prohibits uses that “threaten our democratic freedoms and put our civil liberties at risk.”
Continue Reading Washington State Passes Bill Limiting Government Use of Facial Recognition

In August 2018, the Government of Australia unveiled a new proposed bill that would grant the county’s national security and law enforcement agencies additional powers when confronting encrypted communications and devices. The text of the draft Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment (Assistance and Access) Bill 2018 (the “Assistance and Access Bill” or the “Bill”) states that the purpose is “to secure critical assistance from the communications industry and enable law enforcement to effectively investigate serious crimes in the digital era.”

The Assistance and Access Bill, if enacted, could affect a wide range of service providers both in and outside of Australia.
Continue Reading Australia Proposes New Encryption Legislation

Covington’s Alex Berengaut and Kate Goodloe today hosted a webinar on the Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data (“CLOUD”) Act.  The CLOUD Act was signed into law in March and creates a new framework for government access to data held by technology companies worldwide.  The webinar, hosted with DataGuidance, is available here.  The webinar

In a decision that defines how the Fourth Amendment applies to information collected in the digital age, the Supreme Court today held that police must use a warrant to obtain from a cell phone company records that detail the location and movements of a cell phone user.  The opinion in Carpenter v. United States limits the application of the third-party doctrine, holding that a warrant is required when an individual “has a legitimate privacy interest in records held by a third party.”

The 5-4 decision, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, emphasizes the sensitivity of cell phone location information, which the Court described as “deeply revealing” because of its “depth, breadth, and comprehensive reach, and the inescapable and automatic nature of its collection.”  Given its nature, “the fact that such information is gathered by a third party does not make it any less deserving of Fourth Amendment protection,” the Court held.
Continue Reading Supreme Court’s Carpenter Decision Requires Warrant for Cell Phone Location Data


Two federal appellate courts are taking sharply different views on whether—and why—government agents must have some amount of suspicion to conduct forensic searches of electronic devices seized at the border.

The Fourth Circuit on May 9, 2018, held that government agents must have reasonable suspicion to conduct forensic searches of cell phones seized at the

By Lauren Moxley

Today, the Supreme Court released its decision in Byrd v. United States.  The Court held that under the Fourth Amendment, a driver of a rental vehicle can challenge a search of the vehicle even if he is not listed as an authorized driver on the rental agreement.

The case began in

Last summer, Marcus Hutchins, the security researcher who stopped the “WannaCry” malware attack, was arrested and charged for his role in allegedly creating and conspiring to sell a different piece of malware, known as Kronos.  As we have previously discussed on this blog, however, the indictment was notable for its lack of allegations connecting Hutchins

On March 23, 2018, Congress passed, and President Trump signed into law, the Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data (“CLOUD”) Act, which creates a new framework for government access to data held by technology companies worldwide.

The CLOUD Act, enacted as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, has two components.

Part I:  Extraterritorial Reach