Essential Pittsburgh
3:22 pm
Thu January 9, 2014

Interpreting the Fourth Amendment in the 21st Century

Credit David Glover / flickr

Last month judges in New York and Washington DC issued two different opinions on the controversial bulk metadata collection program being done by the NSA.

In light of these conflicting decisions, many wonder if the Supreme Court will take up the issue.

David Harris, Distinguished Faculty Scholar and Professor of Law University of Pittsburgh School of Law says the opposite rulings were products of the environments where the judges preside, as well as the radically different views of the Fourth Amendment.

He suggests that preceding cases dealing with privacy such as the phone click tapping case of Smith v. Maryland have set certain precedents under which the courts can rule. Yet the difference with the NSA case seems to be the volume of collections and the huge population of those from which they collect data.

“This program of the NSA’s goes for everybody all the time all at once. That’s a far cry from counting the clicks on one phone. We’ve certainly had enough change in the capability of technology that it seems like it might be time to revisit the standard of reasonable and unreasonable...these are very, very important questions we should be asking. And whatever conclusion we come to, we shouldn’t be afraid to act."