Supreme Court Ruling Protects Cell Phone Privacy

Search warrants are now required for the search of cellphones, tablets, and laptops thanks to Wednesday’s unanimous Supreme Court ruling. The Court’s surprisingly tech-forward opinion found that cell phones, and the vast amounts of personal data they carry, necessitate clear protections.

6a00d8341c730253ef01a3fd25582f970b-800wi“The fact that technology now allows an individual to carry such information in his hand,” Chief Justice Kennedy wrote, “does not make the information any less worthy of the protection for which the founders fought.”

The Justices’ opinion went on to explicitly defend the privacy of individuals, calling out a number hypothetical situations often used as would-be reasons to delve into peoples’ personal data. Justice Roberts clearly stated that instances of the remote wiping of data were unlikely and easily circumvented by authorities if need be.

Though the ruling clearly struck a blow for advocates of privacy, Justice Roberts made it clear that the Court understood the drawbacks to its decision.

“Cellphones have become important tools in facilitating coordination and communication among members of criminal enterprises, and can provide valuable incriminating information about dangerous criminals,” he conceded. “Privacy comes at a cost.”


  1. Tyler says

    You incorrectly refer to Associate Justice Kennedy as the Chief Justice. John Roberts is, unfortunately, still the Chief Justice.

  2. jason MacBride says

    There is no such thing as cell phone privacy. If you don’t think cell phone carriers – like Facebook – cooperate with the feds, you live in a dream world.

  3. confused says

    So how exactly is requiring a warrant to search your mobile data devices “a blow for advocates of privacy”?

  4. Bill says

    @jason : while they may cooperate with the federal government, the ruling gives you some protection if
    stopped by a homophobic police officer who might treat you differently upon reading text messages to/from your boyfriend.

    Once, some years ago, while walking a short distance from home to a store, the police stopped me for wearing jeans (shorts, whatever). It seems that a flasher wearing jeans (or whatever it was) had bothered some kids and they were driving the kid around to see if they could identify the creep.
    It was kind of scary – who wants the hassle and expense of a defense attorney triggered by the memory of a 5 year old – but fortunately the creep didn’t resemble me at all and the police were just stopping anyone with a roughly similar set of pants.

    Given the anti-gay propaganda some people are putting out, would you want an officer to go through your cell phone and find out that you were gay under those specific circumstances? Do you think you might be treated differently than if you were presumed to be straight?