NYT asks high court to require warrants to search smart phones


By Josh Peterson | Watchdog.org

The New York Times in an op-ed Sunday came out in support of a requirement for law enforcement to obtain a warrant before accessing a suspect’s smart phone.

IN A CROWD: The battle to have law enforcement obtain a warrant before searching electronic devices is now before the Supreme Court.

The op-ed appeared two days ahead of the Supreme Court taking up two cases involving cell phone location tracking.

“They are personal computers that happen to include a phone function,” said the New York Times, describing smartphones, ”and like any computer they can store or wirelessly retrieve enormous amounts of personal information: emails, photos and videos; document files; financial and medical records; and virtually everywhere a person has been.”

Justice Antonin Scalia, a conservative, is expected to play a crucial role in the decision, according to recent Los Angeles Times story highlighting his championing of the Fourth Amendment and opposition to unreasonable searches.

Lawmakers in several states have battled to pass legislation requiring law enforcement to obtain a warrant before searching the contents and locations of electronic devices. In Missouri, residents could vote this fall on whether to codify electronic privacy protections into the state constitution.

“For better or worse, mobile phones have become repositories of our daily lives, and will become only more powerful over time,” said the New York Times.

“As a rule, the police should have to get a warrant to search them,” said the paper.

Contact Josh Peterson at jpeterson@watchdog.org. Follow Josh on Twitter at @jdpeterson