Thursday, June 26, 2014

Smartphones Can't Be Searched Without Warrants, Except When They Are

I suppose I'm a Debbie Downer today, but the Supreme Court ruling yesterday giving privacy protections to smartphones and requiring warrants to search them ... seems just a little hollow and a whole lot of ironic.

Despite the ruling's support for privacy protections, there's a telling phrase in Justice Roberts majority opinion:

" These cases do not implicate the question of whether the collection or inspection of aggregated digital information amounts to a search under other circumstances."

Well. With reports that computer and mobile devices can be delivered with components which provide agencies access to every action, warrants may be moot. Then there's the commercial agencies which have provided spying tools worldwide:

"The new components target Android, iOS, Windows Mobile, and BlackBerry users and are part of Hacking Team’s larger suite of tools used for targeting desktop computers and laptops. But the iOS and Android modules provide cops and spooks with a robust menu of features to give them complete dominion over targeted phones.
They allow, for example, for covert collection of emails, text messages, call history and address books, and they can be used to log keystrokes and obtain search history data. They can take screenshots, record audio from the phones to monitor calls or ambient conversations, hijack the phone’s camera to snap pictures or piggyback on the phone’s GPS system to monitor the user’s location. The Android version can also enable the phone’s Wi-Fi function to siphon data from the phone wirelessly instead of using the cell network to transmit it. The latter would incur data charges and raise the phone owner’s suspicion."
The court seemed to indicate the larger issue of warrantless data collection will have to be taken up by Congress and policymakers rather than decided by lawsuits.
Still, the court's ruling is welcome - but enormous questions about privacy and security, for the individual and the nation, remain unanswered.

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