The Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that police may not search cellphones without a court’s permission.
The unanimous 9-0 ruling reported by TheHill, is seen as a victory for privacy rights involving technology.
In the case of Riley v. California, a court ruled that a police officer can seize and secure a cellphone pursuant to an arrest, and they can also search the contents of that phone without a warrant.
Prior to the recent SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the United States) ruling there was a difference among state and federal courts on the power of police officers to search cellphones.
SCOTUS can often be out of touch with many issues involving modern technology, but in the case of cellphones and privacy, this week they have made the connection.
According to Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., “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.”
The Fourth Amendment applied
The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution states that the “right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated.”
The application of the Fourth Amendment notion that each man’s home is his castle is the the legal basis of modern privacy laws. The recent court ruling extends the goal of protecting Americans from unreasonable searches to the digital world.
NSA surveillance implications
The implications of the Riley v. California ruling are far reaching, beyond just cell phones. The SCOTUSblog on Thursday points out, “the Court’s conclusion that data is different will affect not only digital search cases, but also the NSA’s bulk record collection program…”
How can one agency defend the massive collection of the telephone records of all Americans when the Chief Justice states in a ruling that “the Founders did not fight a revolution to gain the right to government agency protocols.”
The unanimous decision by SCOTUS in the cellphone privacy cases does not bode well for the government in the continued litigation over the NSA’s surveillance of Americans.
Personal privacy in the digital world
Every day we get one step closer to the world George Orwell describes. Why should anyone be surprised by the NSA’s PRISM surveillance data mining program?
How will the ruling banning warrantless police searches of cellphones affects other rulings on personal privacy in the digital world?
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