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Supreme Court bans warrantless cell phone searches, updates privacy laws

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posted on Jun, 25 2014 @ 02:53 PM
Supreme Court bans warrantless cell phone searches, updates privacy laws

The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that police cannot go snooping through people’s cell phones without a warrant, in a unanimous decision that amounts to a major statement in favor of privacy rights.

Police agencies had argued that searching through the data on cell phones was no different than asking someone to turn out his pockets, but the justices rejected that, saying a cell phone is more fundamental.

The ruling amounts to a 21st century update to legal understanding of privacy rights.

“The fact that technology now allows an individual to carry such information in his hand does not make the information any less worthy of the protection for which the Founders fought,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote for the unanimous court.

“Our answer to the question of what police must do before searching a cell phone seized incident to an arrest is accordingly simple— get a warrant.”

Justices even said police cannot check a cellphone’s call log, saying even those contain more information that just phone numbers, and so perusing them is a violation of privacy that can only be justified with a warrant.

The chief justice said cellphones are different not only because people can carry around so much more data — the equivalent of millions of pages of documents — that police would have access to, but that the data itself is qualitatively different than what someone might otherwise carry.

He said it could lay bare someone’s entire personal history, from their medical records to their “specific movements down to the minute.”

Click for remainder of article.

Ive stated this a few times now that the Supreme Court will take its time updating laws that deal with privacy in the computer age. This ruling is a pretty big one and they came down on the side of the people, requiring law enforcement to obtain a warrant to look at a cell phones contents.

The Courts did allow an exception to the ruling when dealing with national security issues. That burden falls onto the government to prove their actions were necessary and meet criteria.

slowly but surely...

As a side note I am curious if this ruling might be a precursor / reinforcement to end the use of "administrative subpoenas" during criminal investigations.

edit on 25-6-2014 by Xcathdra because: (no reason given)

posted on Jun, 25 2014 @ 05:22 PM

originally posted by: Xcathdra

“Our answer to the question of what police must do before searching a cell phone seized incident to an arrest is accordingly simple— get a warrant.”

I know many have been waiting for this. Personally, it's a shame that money, time, and effort to bring this before the Supreme Court was wasted. This was such a simple answer, yet some people couldn't accept what the majority of American's felt all along - get a warrant. Is that a light I see at the end of the tunnel?

posted on Jun, 25 2014 @ 06:17 PM
At least the Supreme Court takes their job and responsibility to the citizens seriously.Too bad they are virtually alone in Washington.

posted on Jun, 25 2014 @ 06:26 PM
a reply to: Xcathdra

Sounds wonderful.

I wish the ruling well.

I think it'll largely turn out to have been a milk sop.

133."The illegal we do immediately. The unconstitutional takes a little longer." Henry Kissinger


TPTB care not for laws. They have effective control of the military, the police, etc. etc. etc. What standing army does the Supreme Court have?

Oh, I agree, . . . it's a wonderful ruling.

And after the current Destroyer in Chief stops fuming, flaunching about and generally throwing a fit about the ruling, he'll probably start to laugh and mock the court as impotent to stop him doing much of anything.

We shall see how police forces and the FBI start treating folks relative to the ruling.

I expect a brief period of better treatment . . . followed by a renewed rush down the chute toward utter tyranny and squashing of individual slaves and serfs by the millions.

posted on Jun, 25 2014 @ 07:13 PM
a reply to: retiredTxn

Better to embrace the fact it showed up to the party later rather than not at all.

As for warrant I understand the legal issue behind it and where some of the issues arose from. A warrant is not needed to search an individual who has been placed under arrest. While Arizona vs. Gant was the start for restriction placed on law enforcement in terms of what can be searched and when, the issue of cell phones kept coming up. A person with a cell phone hat is placed under arrest can be searched (search incident to arrest). Including items they have in possession.

I am just glad they came down on a warrant requirement. This should also affect border patrol when the conduct actions outside of the immediate border zone as well. Its going to take some time for the courts to keep up with electronics. Since we see electronics advancing every 6 months +/- we are going to see more cases and rulings like this.

posted on Jun, 25 2014 @ 07:15 PM
a reply to: BO XIAN

TPTB don't have control of law enforcement.
They don't have control of the military outside the law.

I know this from 1st hand experience.

posted on Jun, 25 2014 @ 07:21 PM
Great news on this and it supports what I've been saying about this being a Government of 3 distinct branches. Very separate, and very distinct. At least in design. The fact Congress and the White House have become downright incestuous in terms of rubber stamping when the party in power across both places match doesn't change the design.

I know folks are cynical and everyone has real good reason to be. The courts are different though. Especially the Federal Courts and particularly the Super Courts. Federal Judges serve for life, unlike local and state Judges. They do what they choose to do as an overall Branch, based on how THEY see the Constitution.

It's fair to say then, the President may not change much. Nor will the Attorney General or likely others. However, the cops on the street level who deal with the judges led by higher court decisions and way out of public view may really care over what screw ups can cost then convictions .....or much more in some circumstances.

I think this is a great affirmation of the Courts still being their independent branch.

posted on Jun, 25 2014 @ 07:53 PM
a reply to: Xcathdra

Seems like you are right in this county.

I wonder about in the big cities.

And I really don't trust their . . . mechanisms of !!!CONTROL!!! when they decide to ramp it up a notch or 3.

posted on Jun, 25 2014 @ 08:58 PM
Don't get too comfortable. Government routinely says one thing and does another.

posted on Jun, 25 2014 @ 09:11 PM
a reply to: Wrabbit2000

I was thinking the same thing the other day, wrabs...

Sure Cheney solidified power for the executive branch and the legislative is a bunch of brownnosers their first few terms for those that bought them seats, but the real power comes in the interpretation of the laws of the land and HOW that is to be done.

Maybe we should amend for twelve year terms...sounds fair to me.

posted on Jun, 25 2014 @ 11:56 PM
a reply to: the owlbear

Only if we allow for a recall of those representatives. 12 years is too long for an idiot to be in a position of power. Hell 8 years is a stretch at time.

posted on Jun, 26 2014 @ 12:25 AM
a reply to: the owlbear

Actually I don't have any problem with Federal Judges carrying lifetime tenures. I agree with the logic behind it and it's proven true, often enough.

I DO think there should be a clearer path and perhaps a lower standard for their removal by the people directly, and something universally understood at the High School civics level for simplicity.

Still, outside of the people (especially as things are now) actually caring enough to get together as a group in numbers to remove a judge, I like their appointments putting them beyond the touch of virtually all political survival issues the other two branches are populated with. Even the hired and career positions in the Legislative and Executive run on 2, 4 or 6 year cycles of policies and ways of doing things at the very least. Judges? They do what they think is right ..hopefully for the right reasons. (tho not always, I admit)

Today, the courts have been pretty busy with also finding a major part of the No-Fly list unconstitutional (a great thing). As well as knocking down the gay marriage ban in Indiana (something overdue, if anything at this point).

Not bad for one day anyway...

posted on Jun, 26 2014 @ 07:41 AM
a reply to: Xcathdra

SCOTUS Unanimously Strikes Down Obama's Executive Overreach for the 11th Time


Supreme Court MAY have started to ... "WAKE UP !!!"


Other Lawless Acts:

1. Aided drug cartels instead of enforcing immigration laws as found by a federal judge. Border Patrol agents, multiple times, knowingly helped smuggle illegal immigrant children into the U.S.; “the DHS is encouraging parents to seriously jeopardize the safety of their children.”

2. Illegally sold thousands of guns to criminals, in the operation known as Fast and Furious, and then refused to comply with congressional subpoenas about the operation.

3. Dismissed charges filed by Bush Administration against New Black Panther Party members who were videotaped intimidating voters at a Philadelphia polling station during the 2008 election.

4. Argued for expansive federal powers in the Supreme Court, which has rejected the Administration’s arguments unanimously 9 times since January 2012.

5. Sued Louisiana to stop school vouchers and keep low income minorities trapped in failing schools.

6. Threatened to arrest military priests for practicing their faith during the partial government shutdown.

7. Muzzled the speech of military chaplains.

8. Sued fire departments saying their multiple choice, open book written employment tests were racially discriminatory..

9. Gave 23,994 tax refunds worth more than $46 million to aliens here illegally using the same address in Atlanta, GA.
The Legal Limit Report #4 (pg 9)
( that's just a ... tiny-tip of the iceberg !!! )

Sen. Cruz has been documenting the Obama Administration’s lawlessness and other abuses of powers in a series of reports, beginning in April 2013.


The U.S. Supreme Court WILL be ... MUCH BUSIER.


edit on 26-6-2014 by FarleyWayne because: (no reason given)

posted on Jun, 26 2014 @ 10:09 PM
I whole-heartedly applaud the Court's ruling, a great step in stemming the tide of increasingly Stasi-like domestic surveilance tactics in use today. However, this could possibly be either smoke and mirrors, or a case of "too little, too late."

Sadly, this only appears to cover physically searching a cell phone. However, I fear that this will do nothing to stop the presumably increasing usage of "Stingray" type devices.

For those unfamiliar with Stingrays and other similar devices, which I've seen on the boards that they've been deployed by Detroit PD and God knows where else, they work as such:

Stingray Tracking Devices: Who's Got Them? - ACLU

Stingrays, also known as "cell site simulators" or "IMSI catchers," are invasive cell phone surveillance devices that mimic cell phone towers and send out signals to trick cell phones in the area into transmitting their locations and identifying information. When used to track a suspect's cell phone, they also gather information about the phones of countless bystanders who happen to be nearby.

Basically, they send out a fake cell tower signal much stronger than the local cell service tower, tricking a phone within their radius (unsure, haven't researched effective range) to connect to the device, as a phone will always seek out the strongest signal. And your phone and you will be none the wiser.

From Link:

The map below tracks what we know, based on press reports and publicly available documents, about the use of stingray tracking devices by state and local police departments. Following the map is a list of the federal law enforcement agencies known to use the technology throughout the United States. But because many agencies continue to shroud their purchase and use of stingrays in secrecy, this map dramatically underrepresents the actual use of stingrays by law enforcement agencies nationwide.
(emphasis mine)

From map:
Local Police confirmed to have devices: 7 states [AK, AZ, CA, MD, MI, NC, TX, VA]
State Police confirmed to have devices: 2 states [IN, PA]
State AND Local Police confirmed to have devices: 5 states [FL, IL, MN, NY, WI]

Also from link: Federal Agencies Known to Use Cell Site Simulators:

US Secret Service
US Marshalls Service
US Army
US Navy
US Marine Corps
US National Guard
US Special Operations Command

edit on 6262014 by CloudsTasteMetallic because: missed an apostrophe

posted on Jun, 26 2014 @ 10:25 PM
a reply to: Xcathdra

It won't really matter. There is a system in place where a cop can call a judge who is on call at anytime and get a verbal warrant or permission to gain access to something. Blood ,cell phone, your car or your private parts.

This is just a formality. Any lawyers on here who can explain further in depth?

posted on Jun, 26 2014 @ 10:48 PM
More information on Stingray technology and usage by Law Enforcement: [note: any bolded text is my own emphasis added]

Internal Police Emails Show Efforts to Hide Use of Cell Phone Tracking - ACLU

As we suspected, local law enforcement officials are borrowing cell phone tracking devices known as “stingrays” from the U.S. Marshals Service—and police are deliberately concealing the use of stingrays in court documents submitted to judges in criminal investigations.

The ACLU of Florida released a set of internal police emails obtained today through a public records request with the subject line “Trap and Trace Confidentiality.” The documents confirm that local police, working on state court matters, hide behind the sham cloak of the U.S. Marshals’ office to keep the information about stingray use out of court files—and beyond even a court’s custody and reach.

The sergeant also wrote, “In the past, and at the request of the U.S. Marshalls [sic], the investigative means utilized to locate the suspect have not been revealed so that we may continue to utilize this technology without the knowledge of the criminal element. In reports or depositions we simply refer to the assistance as ‘received information from a confidential source regarding the location of the suspect.’ To date this has not been challenged…”

In a later email, a North Port PD official wrote, “We have implemented within our detective bureau to not use this investigative tool on our documents in the future.

Concealing the use of stingrays deprives defendants of their right to challenge unconstitutional surveillance and keeps the public in the dark about invasive monitoring by local police.

Stung: Government Disappears Stingray Spying Records [blog]

This first paragraph is a great explanation of how the technology works.

Stingray, also known as an International Mobile Subscriber Identity, or IMSI, catcher, works like this. The cell network is designed around triangulation and whenever possible your phone is in constant contact with at least three towers. As you move, one tower “hands off” your signal to the next one in your line of motion. Stingray electronically inserts itself into this process as if it was a (fake; “spoofed”) cell tower itself to grab location data before passing your legitimate signal back to the real cell network. The handoffs in and out of Stingray are invisible to you. Stingrays also “inadvertently” scoop up the cell phone data of anyone within several kilometers of the designated target person. Though typically used to collect location metadata, Stingray can also capture conversations, texts and mobile web use if needed.

Stingray offers some unique advantages to a national security state: it bypasses the phone company entirely, which is handy if laws change and phone companies no longer must cooperate with the government, or simply if the cops don’t want the phone company or anyone else to know they’re snooping.

The device itself is made by the Harris Corporation. Harris makes electronics for commercial use and is a significant defense contractor. For Stingray, available only to law enforcement agencies, Harris requires a non-disclosure agreement that police departments around the country have been signing for years explicitly prohibiting them from telling anyone, including other government bodies, about their use of the equipment “without the prior written consent of Harris.”
A price list of Harris’ spying technology, along with limited technical details, was leaked online[link to info in source link above], but that’s about all we know.

Though the non-disclosure agreement includes an exception for “judicially mandated disclosures,” there are no mechanisms for judges even to learn that the equipment was used at all, thus cutting off any possibility they could know enough to demand disclosure. In at least one case in Florida, a police department revealed that it had decided not to seek a warrant to use the technology explicitly to avoid telling a judge about the equipment. It subsequently kept the information hidden from the defendant as well. The agreement with Harris goes further to require law enforcement to notify Harris any time journalists or anyone else files a public records request to obtain information about Stingray and also demands the police department assist Harris in deciding what information to release.

The ACLU, which earlier in 2014 filed a Florida state-level FOIA-type request with the Sarasota police department for information detailing its use of Stingray, had an appointment with the local cops to review documents. The local police agreed to the review. However, the June 2014 morning of the ACLU’s appointment, U.S. Marshals arrived ahead of them and physically took possession of the files. The Marshals barred the Sarasota police from releasing them. The rationale used by the federal government was that having quickly deputized a Sarasota cop, all Sarasota records became federal property.

“This is consistent with what we’ve seen around the country with federal agencies trying to meddle with public requests for Stingray information,” an ACLU spokesperson said, noting that federal authorities have in other cases invoked the Homeland Security Act to prevent the release of such records. “The feds are working very hard to block any release of this information to the public.”

edit on 6262014 by CloudsTasteMetallic because: typo

posted on Jun, 26 2014 @ 11:12 PM
a reply to: CloudsTasteMetallic

This quote made me laugh:

"Stingray offers some unique advantages to a national security state". I think they meant "A Police security state". Isn't this the same company that makes those fast license readers mounted inside cop cars and can look up your information within seconds?
The days of having a burnt out rear light and getting pulled over for a warning are over. If you owe court fees or a ticket in some adjacent county, they will find you and haul you to jail.

posted on Jun, 27 2014 @ 12:12 AM

originally posted by: Kratos40
a reply to: CloudsTasteMetallic

This quote made me laugh:

"Stingray offers some unique advantages to a national security state". I think they meant "A Police security state". Isn't this the same company that makes those fast license readers mounted inside cop cars and can look up your information within seconds?
The days of having a burnt out rear light and getting pulled over for a warning are over. If you owe court fees or a ticket in some adjacent county, they will find you and haul you to jail.

Sometimes ya just gotta laugh at the absurdity to stay sane, eh?

I feel ya brother. Upon moving back to my small hometown about a year ago, I was pulled over for having a taillight out. Looked later, and one out of six bulbs were out on the taillights of my Buick. I couldn't even tell at first! Told the cop I had a DUI on record (no point in lying, they'll find everything anyway) from five years prior when I was younger, wilder, and, mainly... dumber. Having learned quickly from my youthful indiscretions, I straightened up my act, quick. Heck, I won't even go 5 over the speed limit after spending a year with a suspended DL and $8k in costs.

I was within the full letter of the law the night... Or so I thought.

Got a $180 (!!!) dollar ticket for "Failure to notify DPS of address change within 10 days." Because my DL didn't have my current address. Which had NEVER been a problem in the three years since I'd lived at that address.. Moved home exactly 2 weeks (14 days) before this incident. Thankfully, the Judge had a heart and dismissed without fine.

Oh boy, I'm ranting again, aren't I? *takes deep breath* Apologies for any thread derailment.

BACK ON TOPIC: Did some quick digging, and can't find any links to Harris Corp producing the cameras. Not surprising, as they're a quite secretive company.

The "big player" in that regard is a company called Vigilant Solutions, owner of a license plate database of over 2 billion (yes, billion with a b) records. Came across this story, I'll share just a few of the jucier bits.
Cops Must Swear Silence to Access Vehicle Tracking System -

But one company behind this Orwellian tracking system is determined to stay out of the news. How determined? Vigilant Solutions, founded in 2009, claims to have the nation’s largest repository of license-plate images with nearly 2 billion records stored in its National Vehicle Location Service (NVLS). Despite the enormous implications of the database for the public, any law enforcement agency that signs up for the service is sworn to a vow of silence by the company’s terms of service.

Vigilant is clear about the reason for the secrecy: it’s to prevent customers from “cooperating” with media and calling attention to its database.

The agreement law enforcement signs, which was uncovered by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, reads in part: You shall not create, publish, distribute, or permit any written, electronically transmitted or other form of publicity material that makes reference to LEARN or this Agreement without first submitting the material to LEARN-NVLS and receiving written consent from LEARN-NVLS. This prohibition is specifically intended to prohibit users from cooperating with any media outlet to bring attention to LEARN or LEARN-NVLS. Breach this provision may result in LEARN-NVLS immediately termination of this Agreement upon notice to you [sic].1 LEARN stands for Law Enforcement Archival and Reporting Network and is Vigilant’s online portal where license plate data and images are aggregated and analyzed for law enforcement to access.

The database would aggregate license plate data captured by readers owned by law enforcement agencies, border-crossing cameras and toll booths, as well as by commercial repo-men, who are one of the primary creators and users of license plate images. The latter use vehicles equipped with license plate recognition systems to trawl through streets and parking lots to grab images of plates and cars.

edit on 6272014 by CloudsTasteMetallic because: clarification

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