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Your Smartphone Is A Crucial Police Tool, If They Can Crack It

Publication Date: 
March 25, 2014
National Public Radio - All Tech Considered
Martin Kaste

Professor Jeffrey Fisher spoke with NPR's Martin Kaste on why withholding your cellphone's password from law enforcement could "prove risky." 

New software and gizmos are revolutionizing police work, with social media scanners, facial recognition and other high tech items. As it turns out, though, the single most valuable new police tool is your smartphone.

Rolf Norton, a homicide detective in Seattle, says when he's talking to a suspect, he keeps his eye open for the person's smartphone.


Under the Fifth Amendment's protection against self-incrimination, you might have the right to refuse. But Jeffrey Fisher, a Stanford Law School professor, says the courts haven't settled that issue, so withholding your phone's password could prove risky.

"You can have anything from contempt of court to obstruction of justice," Fisher says. "All kinds of other problems."