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posted by janrinok on Monday April 28 2014, @08:48PM   Printer-friendly
from the toss-of-a-coin dept.

The US Supreme Court is to rule on warrant-less searches of electronic devices. Law Enforcement (LE) want access, without warrants, to electronic devices of everybody arrested.

The US Supreme Court on Tuesday will take on the digital-age controversy over search and seizure of smart-phones and other devices. In two cases coming before the court, warrant-less searches of an electronic device not only provided the basis for criminal prosecutions but also strayed from the original reason for the arrests in question. President Barack Obama's administration and prosecutors from states across the country have lobbied for police officers to be able to search arrestees' gadgets - at or about the time of arrest - without a warrant. Such action, however, demands an examination of the Fourth Amendment's protection against "unreasonable searches and seizures." If nine out of 10 American adults own mobile phones and the devices have advanced to become virtual extensions of our personal and private lives, at what point does LE's access to their call logs, photos, and cloud-hosted data become "unreasonable" invasions of constitutionally protected privacy?

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  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by SpallsHurgenson on Monday April 28 2014, @09:16PM

    by SpallsHurgenson (656) on Monday April 28 2014, @09:16PM (#37398)

    It used to be that this sort of news would fill me with hope; after all, the Supreme Court would look at the Constitution and obviously have to rule that warrantless searches were illegal. It is impossible to view the case any other way; just as the government can't snoop in our mail or personal effects without a warrant, so too should our electronic data be protected.

    But the pro-government trend of rulings over the past fifteen years - not to mention the government's tendency to ignore the law when it is inconvenient to them anyway - makes me view this upcoming ruling with dread. They will argue - as they have successfully done in the past - that since we have already "shared" this information with a third-party (namely the data carrier) it can hardly be considered private data anymore. I fear it will just further codify the government's self-proclaimed right to invade our lives and privacy in the name of domestic security. Worse, a pro-government ruling would then further entitle them to crack down on anything that prevents them from collecting this information (e.g, dark-nets, encryption). Plus, many people on the fence of this issue would start to side with the government once it has been declared legal (trust in authority is instinctive), further cementing the government's "right" to snoop through our data.

    It's why I almost wish for the entire issue to remain legally ambiguous. At least that way people will continue to see it as creepy and pester their representatives about the issue.

    Of course, that's just the cynical part of me talking. Who knows, this could be one of those rare cases that the Supreme Court actually sides with the average citizen, in which case it would be nice to have a hard and fast ruling that can be used against the various law-enforcement and intelligence agencies. It happened when the SCotUS rule in favor of photographing the cops, so it might happen again with this issue too.

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  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by RamiK on Monday April 28 2014, @09:52PM

    by RamiK (1813) on Monday April 28 2014, @09:52PM (#37408)

    Ambiguity of the law solely serves the wealthy whom can afford prolonged trials; And their lawyers.
    Everyone else only stand to lose.

  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by bob_super on Monday April 28 2014, @10:01PM

    by bob_super (1357) on Monday April 28 2014, @10:01PM (#37412)

    Yes, the third-party doctrine needs to go.

    It was kind of jutifyable when the post office had to somehow gather the list of your envelopes, and you could forget the return address to make it harder.
    Now that too many companies and agencies have all the metadata on everybody, the fourth amendment is incompatible with the third-party concept...

    I don't know how they're gonna decide that one. It's less a slam dunk than legalizing corruption.

  • (Score: 2) by mhajicek on Monday April 28 2014, @10:21PM

    by mhajicek (51) on Monday April 28 2014, @10:21PM (#37417)

    Why don't they just use the Interstate Commerce Clause like they do with other constitutional violations? Cell phones can cross state borders, therefore the government can do whatever they want with them.

    The spacelike surfaces of time foliations can have a cusp at the surface of discontinuity. - P. Hajicek
    • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 28 2014, @10:35PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 28 2014, @10:35PM (#37421)

      Both of the cases before the court are regarding local police forces and not federal, as far as I can tell.

    • (Score: 2) by Reziac on Tuesday April 29 2014, @02:25AM

      by Reziac (2489) on Tuesday April 29 2014, @02:25AM (#37477) Homepage

      At the very least they can demonstrate that the data crosses state borders... that's a very nasty thought you had, and unfortunately I think you may be prophetic. :(

      And there is no Alkibiades to come back and save us from ourselves.
  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by tathra on Tuesday April 29 2014, @02:43AM

    by tathra (3367) on Tuesday April 29 2014, @02:43AM (#37485)

    Who knows, this could be one of those rare cases that the Supreme Court actually sides with the average citizen

    i dont want the supreme court taking "sides" at all - i want them to impartially judge whether or not its constitutional, which is very clear to anyone who has ever read the thing. amendment 4 specifically says that this is not legal:

    The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

    general warrants and warrantless searches are not and can not ever be legal, period.

  • (Score: 2) by jelizondo on Tuesday April 29 2014, @04:23AM

    by jelizondo (653) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday April 29 2014, @04:23AM (#37513) Journal

    I share your worry, it probably will end in another setback for human rights, constitutionally protected rights, but not in vogue right now.

    I'm not a lawyer (yet!) but it seems that ISPs and other telecom providers should be treated as lawyers, doctors and others. Your doctor might have heard about your evil plans, but he is bound by confidentiality and can not give testimony against you.

    Forcing those third parties into confidentiality would solve the problem easily.(I think, I wish.)

  • (Score: 1) by http on Tuesday April 29 2014, @05:26AM

    by http (1920) on Tuesday April 29 2014, @05:26AM (#37528)

    Just because data is on my device doesn't mean it's been shared with anyone. If some LEO claims otherwise, why not ask the alleged carrier for the data?

    I browse at -1 when I have mod points. It's unsettling.