“Cell phone users might think that their phones can’t be searched without a warrant any more than their homes can be,” Andy Greenberg reports for Forbes. “But one judge just gave cops engaging in warrantless cell phone searches a foot in the door.”
“Judge Richard Posner of the seventh circuit court of appeals ruled Wednesday that the question of cell phone searches isn’t whether law enforcement can open a phone and start snooping on its information without a warrant, but only how deep their warrantless search can go,” Greenberg reports. “In the appealed case, an Indiana man was arrested at a methamphetamine bust with one cell phone on his person and two more in his truck. Police turned on those phones and checked them for their numbers without obtaining a warrant, then used the numbers to file subpoenas to the carriers for the phones’ call histories. The searches went only as deep as gathering the phones’ numbers, but the defendant appealed his conviction based on what his lawyers argued was an unlawful search that generated evidence against him.”
Greenberg reports, “Posner acknowledged that a deeper search of a cellphone could be considered intrusive. He cited an iPhone app called iCam that allows a user to access surveillance cameras in his own home, essentially linking a deeper cellphone search to a home search. But he argued that simply checking a phone for its number doesn’t go far enough to raise questions of intrusions of privacy.”
Read more in the full article, which includes the full ruling, here.