Survey: 83 percent of Americans favor police warrants to search cell phones

By Josh Peterson | Watchdog.org

American concerns over digital privacy are changing as the consequences of a post-privacy world becomes evermore apparent.

PRIVACY: Americans want police to get warrants before searching the contents of suspects’ cell phones.

Eighty-three percent of Americans believe police should obtain a warrant before searching the contents of a suspect’s cell phone, according to the results of a recent survey.

The survey published by Microsoft’s Digital Constitution blog was conducted between July 7 and 8, 12 days after the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled police need to obtain warrants before searching the contents of suspects’ cell phones.

Eighty-six percent of respondents also favored police following the same legal requirements in the digital realm as they do in the physical realm when seeking out personal information stored on paper.

Seventy-nine percent of respondents said the federal government needs to follow local privacy laws when seeking email information.

Microsoft is currently suing the federal government over a warrant it issued to the company to obtain data from the company’s servers in Ireland.

Fifty-six percent of respondents worry that “if the U.S. government decides it can demand information in other countries without going through their governments, then other countries will follow suit and force companies to turn over Americans’ private information.”

“As all of this suggests, the American public understands what’s at stake for technology and the future of privacy,” said Brad Smith, general counsel and executive vice president for legal and corporate affairs at Microsoft, in a blog post about the survey.

The survey results represent a marked change in public attitudes towards privacy and security since former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden leaked classified documents exposing the surveillance and intelligence activities of the United States and United Kingdom.

Snowden’s activities raised the profile of the privacy debate out of tech circles and into a mainstream spotlight.

A Pew survey taken immediately after The Guardian and the Washington Post began publishing documents provided by Snowden revealed that at the time, a majority of Americans viewed the NSA’s phone tracking activities were an acceptable way to combat terrorism.

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

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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