Obama Urges Supreme Court to Allow Warrantless Cellphone Searches

Insists Police Have Always Been Able to Rummage Through Your Stuff

The summer of data grabs continues.

President Obama is now pushing the Supreme Court to overturn a ruling by the First Circuit Court of Appeals that insists that police need a search warrant to go through the data on your cell phone looking for information to use against you.

The Justice Department petition argued that protecting the privacy of data on someone’s cell phone was “anomalous” and that historically police have always been free to rummage through your possessions while making an arrest.

They insisted there was no justification for the court to treat the huge amount of data on a cellphone any differently from a piece of paper in the captive’s pocket, and that police should be able to do whatever they want with either.

The specifics of the case make it possible that the Supreme Court could try to skirt the issue, ruling that the 2007 case being considered involved such a primitive cellphone that searching it was no big deal without weighing in either way on modern phones with multiple gigabytes of data on them.

Such a ruling would be convenient for the court in avoiding a privacy showdown with a surveillance-happy administration, but it would likely be a de facto legalization of all searches in practice, giving the administration wiggle room to argue that anything but the newest phones on the market are sufficiently obsolete to search with impunity.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is senior editor of Antiwar.com.