“The fact that technology now allows an individual to carry such information in his hand does not make the information any less worthy of the protection for which the Founders fought.”
— John Roberts, chief justice of the Supreme Court, ruling that police should get warrants before searching the cellphones of people they arrest. The unanimous ruling is a loss for the Obama administration and the state of California; they had argued in separate cases that cellphones should be searched like other items police find on suspects.
“By recognizing that the digital revolution has transformed our expectations of privacy, today’s decision is itself revolutionary and will help to protect the privacy rights of all Americans,” said ACLU National Legal Director Steven Shapiro in a statement.
Meanwhile, the ruling is being held up as a “wake-up call” for other privacy issues. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said in a statement: “Just as the government must now obtain a warrant to look through the contents of our cell phones, I believe the same standard should apply when the government wants to look through our emails.” Leahy urged Congress to pass a bill updating ECPA, or the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. The bill would require law enforcement to obtain a warrant before looking through suspects’ old emails.
Photo by Jim Gensheimer/Mercury News archives