Surveillance technology has raced ahead of the Fourth Amendment, forcing courts to confront high-tech intrusions with rusty jurisprudence. The Dirtbox, an airborne cell-site simulator, allows the government to sweep entire cities and intercept individuals’ cell phone location information without relying on cooperative intermediaries. This Note argues that the government’s use of the Dirtbox and other cell-site simulators amounts to a Fourth Amendment search because it may pinpoint individuals within a constitutionally protected space. Although the Department of Justice issued policy guidelines requiring its agents to obtain a search warrant before using this device, this narrow and unenforceable protocol fails to adequately regulate the rising use of cell phone tracking devices. Until the U.S. Supreme Court accepts the opportunity to modernize the Fourth Amendment, Congress should enact legislation requiring all law enforcement agents to obtain a warrant before using the Dirtbox or other cell-site simulators.
Jonathan Bard, Unpacking the Dirtbox: Confronting Cell Phone Location Tracking with the Fourth Amendment, 57 B.C.L. Rev. 731 (2016), https://lawdigitalcommons.bc.edu/bclr/vol57/iss2/8