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SCOTUS To Weigh Smartphone Searches By Police 201

Posted by timothy
from the hey-it-clearly-says-papers-and-effects dept.
schwit1 writes "The U.S. Supreme Court agreed on Friday to decide whether police can search an arrested criminal suspect's cell phone without a warrant in two cases that showcase how the courts are wrestling to keep up with rapid technological advances. Taking up cases from California and Massachusetts arising from criminal prosecutions that used evidence obtained without a warrant, the high court will wade into how to apply older court precedent, which allows police to search items carried by a defendant at the time of arrest, to cell phones."
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SCOTUS To Weigh Smartphone Searches By Police

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  • Can we hope (Score:5, Insightful)

    by colinrichardday (768814) <colin.day.6@hotmail.com> on Friday January 17, 2014 @11:21PM (#45995339)

    Can we hope for the proper decision (that police need a warrant)?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 17, 2014 @11:22PM (#45995345)

    Doesn't mention phones, so there is no right to them.

    In fact, he's pretty sure they're witchcraft.

  • by WillyWanker (1502057) on Friday January 17, 2014 @11:27PM (#45995381)

    But with this bunch of idiots on SCOTUS you never know.

    Police should be free to search the physical device, for example, remove the battery cover, take it out of the case, etc, but not able to search the data contained within the device or its memory cards without a warrant.

    • by Immerman (2627577)

      Actually even searching the physical device should require a warrant - beyond a "Terry Pat" that's (supposed to be) targeted *exclusively* at detecting weapons, US police are required to get a warrant or your permission before searching you or your home/car/etc, though of course a little intimidation and/or selective hearing can usually get them that permission pretty easily. Well, plus the fact that a while back the rules were changed such that *suspicion* of drug possession was almost as good as a warran

      • Well that's just it, they are already allowed to search you if they have the suspicion of finding drugs. The question then becomes, can they then turn on your phone and look thru the contact list or call logs? Search the physical phone, yes. Search the data on the phone, no. If they take possession of the phone (which they most likely will if they believe something of value is on it) it's not like the phone is going to self-destruct, so they can wait for warrant if their case is strong enough. And if their

        • by adolf (21054)

          Well that's just it, they are already allowed to search you if they have the suspicion of finding drugs.

          Incorrect. They need probable cause, not mere suspicion.

          If they take possession of the phone (which they most likely will if they believe something of value is on it) it's not like the phone is going to self-destruct, so they can wait for warrant if their case is strong enough.

          Mine can self-destruct. (I haven't actually -installed- a dead man's switch on it, but it's pretty trivial to do, just as it is

          • by Immerman (2627577)

            >Incorrect. They need probable cause, not mere suspicion.
            Can you cite a source for that claim? Because I'm fairly certain I've heard "suspicion of possession" as the magic words from several sources. Probable cause is what you need for a warrant.

            As for a kill switch, it doesn't do you much good if their first action was to clone the drive, which I've heard is the standard process for PCs at least for exactly that reason. If some other computer is analyzing the data it doesn't much matter what self-dest

          • Congratulations! You've won the Pedantic asshole of the Day award! Please call 1-800-EAT-SHIT and ask for someone who cares! Have your credit card ready!

      • by whoever57 (658626)

        Actually even searching the physical device should require a warrant - beyond a "Terry Pat" that's (supposed to be) targeted *exclusively* at detecting weapons,

        The problem is that many judges don't seem to have a grasp of simple logic. In the situation you describe, some judges would think: "In order to search for weapons, cops can search closed containers. Because cops can search closed containers, they can search anything else that might be closed, like a cellphone". Of course, this type of thinking c

        • Re:Seems obvious... (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Immerman (2627577) on Saturday January 18, 2014 @03:39AM (#45996675)

          Actually the rationale doesn't apply to closed containers either, or open ones for that matter, unless they happen to be on your person and capable of hiding a weapon - the Terry Pat is only to ensure you don't present an imminent threat to the officers during questioning, nothing else. If they even want you to empty your pockets they need either a warrant or your consent, or to actually arrest you, which changes the rules somewhat. Sadly they are unlikely to face any repercussions for ordering you to do things they are not actually authorized to require, and by complying with their orders the judge is likely to decide that you voluntarily consented. And of course unless you know the law well enough to be certain which orders you are required to comply with and which ones are "requests" you're likely to get yourself in trouble by refusing to obey.

  • If the phone is locked up with a PIN they can't force you to divulge that information without a warrant, correct? A pattern/gesture lock might be the wiser choice though.
    • by crutchy (1949900)

      If the phone is locked up with a PIN they can't force you to divulge that information without a warrant, correct?

      the world has changed in the last 12 years that you've had your head buried in the sand... nowadays police don't need warrants for anything (at most they might follow up the paperwork later with back dated warrants etc).

      possession is now 100% of the law, so if the police sieze your phone, they can do whatever they want with it and there is nothing you can do about that. if the phone is locked, they either get what they want directly from the carrier or they threaten you with the thought of enjoying cuban cu

      • by shentino (1139071)

        Again we have that lovely "you have no right to privacy for information information in possession of a third party", in this case the third party being your carrier.

      • the world has changed in the last 12 years that you've had your head buried in the sand... nowadays police don't need warrants for anything

        They do indeed still need a warrant. It's the law. If you keep everything encrypted you are protected from any law officer under the delusion that they don't need a warrant.

        Let's face it, law officers aren't the brightest people. In fact you are automatically disqualified from being in law enforecement if your IQ is high enough.

        tldr; use encryption, protect yourself from dumbfucks.

        • by vlueboy (1799360)

          the world has changed in the last 12 years that you've had your head buried in the sand... nowadays police don't need warrants for anything

          I thought GP was going to cite what I was thinking about in that quote.

          They do indeed still need a warrant. It's the law. If you keep everything encrypted you are protected from any law officer under the delusion that they don't need a warrant.

          Let's face it, law officers aren't the brightest people. In fact you are automatically disqualified from being in law enforecement if your IQ is high enough.

          tldr; use encryption, protect yourself from dumbfucks.

          You didn't either. What I was looking for is what I've heard about forensic tools that are now available to any cop, if I recall correctly, where they just plug in your phone and sluuuuurp! Done!
          So you don't even need to unlock it, regardless of whether it's iOS or Android based. Since the US government has agreements with all those companies and there are backdoors in everything, the war is lost if the device leaves your hands, being it

          • You didn't either. What I was looking for is what I've heard about forensic tools that are now available to any cop, if I recall correctly, where they just plug in your phone and sluuuuurp! Done!

            What you heard is wrong. There is a reason Edward Snowden publicly disclosed his data cache encrypted with AES-256; the NSA can't touch it. You can "slurp" up as much encrypted data as you want but if it takes you until the heat death of the universe to decrypt it, it's not of much use.

            Because given misunderstandings, the only good guy when it comes to your personal data is your own self.

            Which is why you take the responsibility and encrypt it yourself.

  • by johngaunt (414543) on Friday January 17, 2014 @11:37PM (#45995475)

    A pin or pattern / gesture lock is useless if the cops have the phone. They DO have tools to render such trivial things useless. They DO use those tools. I have seen the little box with the multitude of connectors being attached to a phone, and then the phone is unlocked, data dumped, and sorted through. Encryption, strong, non manufacturer based encryption, is the only thing close to safe.

    • by Kjella (173770)

      A pin or pattern / gesture lock is useless if the cops have the phone. They DO have tools to render such trivial things useless. They DO use those tools. I have seen the little box with the multitude of connectors being attached to a phone, and then the phone is unlocked, data dumped, and sorted through. Encryption, strong, non manufacturer based encryption, is the only thing close to safe.

      Without hardware support you're screwed anyway because absolutely nobody wants to input a 128+ bit passphrase on their cell phone, you need some kind of trusted, tamper proof chip that'll nuke the encryption key if you enter the wrong PIN more than say 4-10 times.

    • by Zynder (2773551)
      I'm actually in the process of learning how modern Android phones operate. Do you recall the names of any such software? It would be mighty helpful in fixing bricked phones I would think.
    • by mysidia (191772)

      They DO use those tools. I have seen the little box with the multitude of connectors being attached to a phone

      What do you think of a plug that fits into the lightning port, locks into place using a magnetic lock, and prevents any other cable from being inserted?

      Attempt to force removal, should trigger release of corrosive materials sufficient to immediately destroy the connector, and possibly leak into the phone, and render the unit inoperable

  • Papers and EFFECTS (Score:4, Insightful)

    by FuzzNugget (2840687) on Friday January 17, 2014 @11:47PM (#45995553)
    It's not that complicated, damn it.
  • Here we go again....we have to protect ourselves from the "criminals" even before they are deemed so by a court of law. We have to "get the criminals", well in my country now, Canada, it is now criminal to rip a dvd to your computer without the content owners permission. And going off topic a bit, how long before almost everyone can be arrested for carrying on normal-day activities?
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Unwarranted access to a phone doesn't sound like that big a deal.

    The phone component has become a minor feature of today's Galaxy S5 or iPhone 5. The device is computer as powerful if not more than your desktop or laptop 10 years ago. More memory, faster processor, camera, video/audio recorder, movie and song player, ability to run applications, etc.

    In 10 years who knows what they will be able to do and what more will be stored on them.

  • by cyn1c77 (928549) on Saturday January 18, 2014 @12:23AM (#45995811)

    Am I the only one who sees the word SCROTUM every time /. uses SCOTUS?

    • Yes. Have you been tea-bagging Scalia again?

      (sorry, couldn't resist. ;-)

    • Well, they are wedged between a dick and an asshole, but then again, I doubt they have balls.

    • Am I the only one who sees the word SCROTUM every time /. uses SCOTUS?

      The acronym should be based on:

      SupremeCouRtOfTheUnitedstatesofaMerica.

    • by dbIII (701233)
      You too?
      I'm not in the US so that's probably why.
      It gets mixed up in my head with the TSA search procedures every time I think of the USA and why I'm not planning to go there for a bit.
  • It's called the 4th Amendment! You know, Secure in your person, papers, things and places. That smart phone counts as thing that is PROTECTED from unwarranted search and seizure.

    That it actually got all the way up to the USSC is appalling. It should have been vigorously quashed at the district level and affirmed by the appellate and that be the end of it.
  • Allow the police the right to search the phone, but don't make it a law that the accused has to unlock or unencrypt the data on the phone. I have no problem wiht the police looking through my phone, but if you want to get inside any of my data then be prepared to crack it.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 18, 2014 @04:20AM (#45996777)

    In the days of landlines, *everyone* had multiple people using the same phone. I still do that to this day with my smartphone. Friends, siblings, etc. use my phone all the time, and why shouldn't they? You can't assume anything on my smartphone was done by me alone. Same with my PC. Back before cell phones, if someone ran out of gas and walked to the nearest house to borrow their phone, it wasn't unusual at all. I was also always happy to show off my Commodore 64 and Amiga to all my friends or relatives. Why are we assumed not to have this privilege anymore? At what point did we *become* our phone or PC? I'm not a phone number or IP address, I'm a human being. Don't I have the right to be courteous enough to let others use my equipment anymore?

    • by mikael (484)

      It happened when the phone networks switched from data-over-voice channels (modems screeching over telephone lines) to voice-over-data channels (digital telephone networks). Once wireless telephone networks became digital, it was easier taking a TCP/IP stack and porting it over to the wireless modem that it was to write something completely new. But TCP/IP required an IP address, which in turn invoked the tradition of every IP address having a registered system administrator and owner.

  • The reason why police can do a simple search of a detained person, and look inside containers, is to ensure the safety of the officer. It is a light search to ensure that the detained person is not armed. Until I can install a weapon on my cell phone, looking inside it as if it were a 'container', is obviously abuse.

Whenever people agree with me, I always think I must be wrong. - Oscar Wilde

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