Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Password Protected Phone: Reasonable Expectation of Privacy?

A California Court in People v. Taylor is considering whether police should have applied for a warrant prior to bypassing the password on an I-Phone and searching the data contained therein. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has asked a judge to suppress all evidence collected from the phone as a result of the warrantless search, and to quash the warrant that was issued in part on the basis of the information illegally accessed on the phone. The phone was seized as part of an arrest; back at the police station, officers worked to bypass the phone's security and cracked the code. After police realized that the data contained in the phone was more extensive than originally anticipated, officers then applied for a warrant. The case is scheduled to be argued on February 18th in Riverside, California.

Given the data capacity of smart phones, people store far more than just numbers in a telephone. Private communications, text messages, emails, notepads, internet favorites, contacts, and the like are just some of the things people store in their phones. The phone involved in this case had the added "expectation of privacy" manifested in the password protection feature(!) This case is one in a trend of cell-phone privacy issues that are cropping up more and more as cell phones are increasingly woven into the fabric of our lives.

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