Protester Surveillance May Test Constitutional Privacy in Courts

Protests over racial inequality are exposing tensions between law enforcement access to digital data and citizen rights against unwarranted searches, which may force courts to grapple with how to protect people’s privacy.

Law enforcement use of social media posts, drones, cameras, and cell location data catchers called “dirtboxes” during the civil unrest related to the George Floyd protests may push federal courts to expand Fourth Amendment protections to digital data, like geolocation and real-time mobile information. As police surveillance tactics change, constitutional privacy protections are likely to evolve as well.