The Brennan Center filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court of New Jersey in New Jersey v. Lunsford urging the Court to continue to protect the privacy of telephone billing records under the New Jersey Constitution.
For the last 33 years, police in New Jersey have been required to obtain a judicial warrant based on probable cause in order to search an individual’s telephone billing records. Now, the Attorney General has asked the state’s highest court to overturn that longstanding precedent.
The Brennan Center, joined by the ACLU of New Jersey, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the New Jersey Office of the Public Defender argue that a warrant should continue to be required for law enforcement access to phone records because they can reveal highly private information about one’s familial, political, professional, and religious activities, especially when collected in bulk. An analysis of this data paints an intimate portrait of private life, including whether a person is ill, in need of legal advice, entangled in an extra-marital affair, or politically active. As a result, this data deserves the highest degree of constitutional protection, as New Jersey’s highest court has recognized for decades.
Today, records of electronic communications are more prevalent, more voluminous, and more revealing than ever. The Brennan Center believes that New Jersey was correct to reject the so-called “third-party doctrine,” a federal rule that treats information conveyed to “third parties” like the telephone company as not private. The New Jersey Supreme Court was correct to reject this doctrine in 1982, and it should continue maintain its historic commitment to preserving telephone privacy in the face of new and evolving technologies.
Read the full amicus brief here.