Defendant’s use of IP addresses his computer signed in through isn’t enough like CSLI in Carpenter to require a search warrant. United States v. Monroe, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 186998 (D. R.I. Nov. 1, 2018):
B. Does Carpenter v. United States Require the Government to Obtain a Warrant to Compel the Disclosure of IP Addresses?
Monroe also argues that this Court should apply the reasoning articulated in Carpenter v. United States, 138 S. Ct. 2206 (2018), to find that the Constitution requires the Government to obtain a warrant supported by probable cause to compel the disclosure of an IP address. (Def.’s Supp. Mem. 3-9.) The Court is unpersuaded, however, that the Government’s acquisition of a defendant’s historical cell site location information (“CSLI”) from a third party is analogous to the circumstances here.
In Carpenter, the Supreme Court considered whether an individual maintained a legitimate expectation of privacy under the Fourth Amendment in the extensive record of his physical movements captured by wireless carriers through CSLI. See 138 S. Ct. at 2219. In answering “yes,” the Court focused on the unique nature of CSLI. “A cell phone,” Chief Justice Roberts wrote, is “almost a ‘feature of human anatomy.'” Id. at 2218 (quoting Riley v. California, 134 S. Ct. 2473, 2484 (2014)). CSLI “tracks nearly exactly the movement of [a cell phone’s] owner,” enabling the Government to obtain “near perfect surveillance” in both public and private locales “as if it had attached an ankle monitor to the phone’s user.” Id.
The FSS’s record of Monroe’s IP address was not an “exhaustive chronicle” of his physical or digital activities. See id. at 2219. Although an IP address is a unique numerical identifier, see United States v. Kearney, 672 F.3d 81, 84 n.1 (1st Cir. 2012), it can only provide “the location at which one of any number of computer devices may be deployed, much like a telephone number can be used for any number of telephones.” In re BitTorrent Adult Film Copy-right Infringement Cases, 296 F.R.D. 80, 84 (E.D.N.Y. 2012). It does not, in and of itself, reveal a particular user’s identity or the content of the user’s communications. Indeed, a “subscriber to whom a certain IP address was assigned may not be the same person who used the Internet connection for illicit purposes.” SBO Pictures, Inc. v. Does 1-3036, No. 11-4220 SC, 2011 WL 6002620, at *3 (N.D. Cal. Nov. 30, 2011). More investigation is required to establish such facts. This understanding is consistent with the additional steps taken by the Government to tie Monroe to the illicit video files, including determining the internet service provider that owned the IP address, subpoenaing the provider’s subscriber information, and conducting additional surveillance. (Richardson Aff. ¶¶ 17-24, 28-29.)
An IP address is one link held by a third party in a chain of information that may lead to a particular person. It does not reveal the kind of minutely detailed, historical portrait of “the whole of [a person’s] physical movements” that concerned the Supreme Court in Carpenter, 138 S. Ct. at 2219. This information is more akin to the records of dialed numbers kept by a telephone company. See United States v. Tolbert, 326 F. Supp. 3d 1211, 1225 (D.N.M. July 27, 2018) (comparing “identifying data” in IP address to telephone and bank records and finding such data did not “rise to the level of the evidence in Carpenter”). Individuals have no reasonable expectation of privacy in such records. See Smith v. Maryland, 442 U.S. 735, 745-46 (1979) (no protected privacy interest in telephone records of numbers dialed); United States v. Miller, 425 U.S. 435, 440-41 (1976) (no protected privacy interest in bank records). The Carpenter Court expressly declined to disturb those rulings. 138 S. Ct. at 2220. The § 2703(d) orders therefore were sufficient to compel the FSS to disclose Monroe’s IP address.