Can computer science and "mosaic theory"-- the idea that a large enough collection of data is vastly more revealing than the individual points-- help reinterpret Fourth Amendment search and seizure and surveillance protocols?

The answer is yes, according to University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law Professor Renee Hutchins, co-author of a new paper that examines how advances in machine learning technology may change the way courts treat searches, warrants, and privacy issues.

Hutchins' study focuses on how technology-in particular, understanding the data compilation and analysis revealed by machine learning-can provide important Fourth Amendment insights, especially when it comes to long-term surveillance and whether a search warrant is necessary.

“This has been a controversial subject,” says Hutchins, “especially in this new age of big data, and the courts don’t agree about what constitutes a search that requires a warrant. There still are a lot of open questions in the courts about all this. We wanted to combine the lessons of machine learning with the ‘mosaic theory’ and apply the pairing to the Fourth Amendment, and see what we came up with.”

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