Your Cellphone: Private Or Not?
Professor Jeff Fisher weighs in on a growing legal debate over privacy rights and technology that could soon be headed to the Supreme Court with USA Today's Richard Wolf.
Police uncovered Brima Wurie's drug dealing during a routine arrest in Boston six years ago, thanks in part to the frequent calls from "my house" arriving on his flip-top cellphone.
David Riley's participation in a San Diego gang shooting in 2009 was revealed after police stopped his Lexus for having expired tags, found weapons and eventually located incriminating photos and video on his smartphone.
"A cellphone nowadays is a portal into our most sensitive information and the most private aspects of our lives," says Jeffrey Fisher, lead attorney for David Riley and co-director of Stanford University's Supreme Court Litigation Clinic. "It's also a device that is the gateway to your office, health records, bank records."
Several experts agree with Fisher that the Riley appeal is more pertinent, both because of today's smartphone technology and the broader police searches that could reveal unrelated data. The Pew Research Center estimates that 56% of Americans have a smartphone, 31% seek medical information on their cellphones, and 29% use them for online banking.
"The Fourth Amendment must be sensitive to new technologies enabling police to easily obtain massive amounts of personal information that, at least as a practical matter, would previously have been inaccessible," Fisher argues in his petition.