Earlier, we discussed the importance of preserving text messages, and the possible sanctions that can arise from failing to do so. Here’s a recent case from Canada that applies to anything on your phone. If you get stopped by the police, can the police search your phone without a warrant? A February 21st Ars Technica article says “[i]t depends on the circumstances and where you live.” The article tells of a recent ruling by a “provincial appeals court in Canada . . . that police can search the mobile phone of an arrested person only if there is no password on that phone.” Otherwise, “officers must get a warrant.” What about here in the US? The Ars story explains:
“In the United States, there is no national standard concerning how much protection a mobile phone password gives someone after they’ve been arrested.”
The story further noted that “[t]he Electronic Frontier Foundation put[ ] it this way: After a person has been arrested, the police generally may search the items on her person and in her pockets, as well as anything within her immediate control. This means that the police can physically take your cell phone and anything else in your pockets.” Depending on the court, police may be allowed to “search the contents of your cell phone, like text messages, call logs, emails, and other data stored on your phone, without a warrant.” In other jurisdictions, police may be required “to seek a warrant.” It’s a shame that there’s no national standard yet, but when it comes to tech law matters, we’ve come to expect that. So, the advice when it comes to cellphones is “password-protect your phone and know your rights.”
Written by Shannon Allen, intern at IT-LEX.