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Police now need a warrant to search your smartphone!
In a unanimous 9-0 decision, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Riley v. California, that police need a warrant to search digital cellphones and smartphones. Authoring the Court’s Opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote, “police generally may not without a warrant search digital information on the cellphone seized from an individual who has been arrested.” Law enforcement may still search a smartphone without a warrant in emergency situations, however. The ruling leaves unanswered what types of information can be searched in those emergency situations, and, even, what sorts of emergencies will give police access to otherwise protected information.
Smartphones are like minicomputers—they store vast amounts of personal data. We depend on them for access to contacts, calendars, internet searches and all types of apps that make our lives easier and more convenient. But what freedoms do we risk for such convenience? In the world of post-NSA “back door” surveillance, the Court’s ruling announces greater Fourth Amendment protections for a vital mode of communication and information storage in a growing age of digital dependence.