For years now, proponents of Wintel being the one true way to do IT, have held that smart thingies and other small“Cell phones differ in both a quantitative and a qualitative sense from other objects that might be carried on an arrestee’s person. Notably, modern cell phones have an immense storage capacity. Before cell phones, a search of a person was limited by physical realities and generally constituted only a narrow intrusion on privacy.
But cell phones can store millions of pages of text, thousands of pictures, or hundreds of videos. This has several interrelated privacy consequences. First, a cell phone collects in one place many distinct types of information that reveal much more in combination than any isolated record. Second, the phone’s capacity allows even just one type of information to convey far more than previously possible. Third, data on the phone can date back for years. In addition, an element of pervasiveness characterizes cell phones but not physical records. A decade ago officers might have occasionally stumbled across a highly personal item such as a diary, but today many of the more than 90% of American adults who own cell phones keep on their person a digital record of nearly every aspect of their lives” cheap computers while having a CPU, networking, memory and storage are somehow less than PCs (Personal Computers). The Supreme Court has just ruled that smartphones and other electronic gadgets are worthy to require search warrants to search just like real computers. Their big issue is the depth, breadth and volume of data stored on smartphones but that is just one function of a smartphone. The Supremes also mention browsing histories, and “apps”, all providing information about people to police just like other evidence.
What’s important to me in this is not just that they ruled that smartphones should have a warrant to search but that these definitely non-techie types agree that smartphones work just like PCs. When this concept spans generations from teenagers to old fogies and people actually think of capabilities in terms of numbers of gigabytes and so on, it’s real.
See The Ruling in RILEY v. CALIFORNIA