Yesterday, I was listening to a replay of John Gibson as he was talking to Judge Nepalitano about terrorism and whether Apple and Google should be forced to put a back door into its phones and tablets. This was done in part because of the NSA revelations and partly because police started routinely demanding cell phones on traffic stops to search their contents on a fishing expedition or to gather a contact list – without a search warrant.
Of course, every terrorist incident that kills rich white Europeans will reopen the debate of “well, hypothetically the terrorists might have used a phone – you aren’t a terrorist supporter, are you? Why don’t you trust the police? If you have nothing to hide…”
The Judge is sticking to the 4th amendment. You don’t need physical possession of the device and the ability to open the apps to develop probable cause. People making phone calls and using SMS are logged by the phone company, which can be subpoenaed by presenting evidence you have developed independently – photos, witness statements, DNA, undercover surveillance – you know… “Police work”
Here is a random example I just bumped into
In this story, police in Columbia Missouri confiscated 30 iPads owned by the School District on the suspicion that students might be having sexually explicit conversations and sending naked pictures to each other. The article doesn’t mention a judge signing a warrant. The 4th amendment requires probable cause and the specific items to be searched. Random fishing expeditions of every iPad is not allowed. The kidz use snapchat for sexting specifically because it leaves no evidence.
Because the iPads are owned by the school district and used at least part of the time on the school system internet connection, that might make the investigation easier. But if the iPads are running iOS 7+, the contents cannot be viewed without knowing the pass codes.
What do you think the rules should be?