Other People’s Papers

Article - Volume 94 - Issue 2

The third party doctrine permits the government to collect consumer records without implicating the Fourth Amendment. The doctrine strains the reasoning of all possible conceptions of the Fourth Amendment and is destined for reform. So far, scholars and jurists have advanced proposals using a cramped analytical model that attempts to balance privacy and security. They fail to account for the filterability of data. Filtering can simultaneously expand law enforcement access to relevant information while reducing access to irrelevant information. Thus, existing proposals will distort criminal justice by denying police a resource that can cabin discretion, increase distributional fairness, and exculpate the wrongly accused.

In this Article, Jane Bambauer offers the first comprehensive analysis of third party data in police investigations by considering interests beyond privacy and security. First, it shows how existing proposals to require suspicion or a warrant will inadvertently conflict with other constitutional values, including equal protection, the First Amendment, and the due process rights of the innocent. Then it offers surgical reforms that address the most problematic applications of the doctrine: suspect-driven data collection, and bulk data collection. Well-designed reforms to the third party doctrine will shut down the data collection practices that most seriously offend civil liberties without impeding valuable, liberty-enhancing innovations in policing.

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