The cases: Criminal suspects in Massachusetts and California were convicted, in part after phone numbers, text messages, and addresses obtained from personal electronic devices linked them to criminal drug and gang activity.
The arguments: The Supreme Court has issued mixed privacy rulings in the past two years: allowing criminal suspects to be DNA-tested upon arrest yet before conviction, to help solve "cold" cases; but saying in most cases, search warrants are needed before GPS electronic surveillance of vehicles, or blood tests for suspected drunk drivers.
The impact: Chief Justice John Roberts recently said his court's biggest challenge in coming years will be to articulate what constitutional protections "apply to new issues and new technology."
Also: In Re Electronic Privacy Information Center (13-58) - A direct challenge to the National Security Agency's surveillance of domestic telephone communication records. A privacy rights group claims a secret federal court improperly authorized the government to collect the electronic records. The court for a variety of procedural and substantive reasons is unlikely to accept the case at this time, perhaps waiting for it to percolate in the lower courts.
Elane Photography, LLC v. Willock
At issue: Whether private businesses can refuse-- on personal religious grounds-- to offer services typically available to the general public.
The case: The owners of a small Albuquerque photography studio refused to film a 2006 commitment ceremony involving a lesbian couple, saying it went against their Christian beliefs of "traditional marriage" between one man and one woman. The state supreme court concluded that violated New Mexico's Human Rights Act.
The arguments: Competing debate over religious freedom versus "public accommodation" discrimination of homosexuals. Although some of New Mexico's counties have recently issued marriage licenses for same-sex couples, the state as a whole neither allows, nor bans it.
The impact: This could be the latest constitutional test of gay rights, after the Supreme Court in June struck down a key part of the Defense of Marriage Act, which had denied a range of federal benefits to legally married same-sex couples. The legal debate now shifts back to state laws.