How to protect your mobile phone and computer from illegal police searches
by: J. D. Heyes
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
The U.S. Constitution is clear about the issue of privacy. In fact, the Fourth Amendment states, in part, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated…”
With that in mind, it’s safe to say it’s more than just a little disturbing to know that, in certain circumstances, police can search your cell phone and computer(s), even if you don’t want them to and even if they don’t yet have a warrant to do so.
The good news is, someone out there has recognized the problem and has taken steps to help you protect that vast amount of data you have stored on your smart phone or laptop.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, long defenders of electronic rights, has written a legal guide designed to help you better understand your rights and, more importantly, when police can – and cannot – legally confiscate and search your personal electronic devices.
“In the heat of the moment, it can be hard to remember what your rights are and how to exercise them,” says EFF Senior Staff Attorney Marcia Hofmann. “Sometimes police can search your computer whether you like it or not, but sometimes they can’t. We wrote this guide to help you tell the difference and to empower you to assert your rights when the police come knocking.”
Adds EFF Staff Attorney Hanni Fakhoury, “With smart phones, tablet computers, and laptops, we carry around with us an unprecedented amount of sensitive personal information.