Last week the US Court of Appeal for the 7th Circuit ruled that US police can search a mobile phone for its number without a warrant. At first glance, this opinion which was based on police in Indiana finding a number of cell phones at a drug bust wouldn’t seem like a situation that will effect all Americans, but it in fact does.
One of the suspects, Abel Flores-Lopes, was convicted and argued on appeal that the police had no right to search his phone without a warrant, The Appeals court rejected that by stating that the invasion of privacy was so slight that the police’s actions did not violate the Fourth Amendment’s ban on unreasonable searches. That police were allowed to activate the phone to check the telephone number on it and then do searches based on that. The problem is that Police will attempt to use this as justification for more than merely checking a telephone number, they are actively using new technology to pull every bit of data off a smartphone in short order. Imagine being asked to submit your cell phone for a full data pull at your local traffic stop? They could use this as legal grounds.
This is among the first cases to examine how far police can do in probing electronic devices and it is moving in a startling direction. “Lurking behind this issue is the question whether and when a laptop or desktop computer, tablet, or other type of computer (whether called a ‘computer’ or not) can be searched without a warrant,” Judge Richard Posner.
The problem here is this case will likely be the first among many based on this legal arena. There are devices law enforcement can use that when they see someone, pull someone over, or worse, they can do a full data dump in under 2 minutes. So, it begs the question, as devices become more advanced, and so does the ability for technology to allow data accesses to be done in a quick manner, does that in fact mean that it is still an unreasonable search and seizure of data?
In our modern state of high technology, it must be clearly shown that people still have their rights to privacy in all arenas. It is not acceptable just because of advancements in tech, that just because police can pull data quickly and easily, that is isn’t an invasion and breach of 4th Amendment protections. When cell phones, computers, Cloud computing and more hold much of a person’s data, access to it should still be subject to strong privacy protections.
This is a serious issue and one that will be a hot button topic. Privacy Matters, as do US Constitutional protections. Erosion of rights because technology makes it easy to take data does not make it any more palatable or less wrong.
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