From narrowing the application of the Fifth Amendment to allowing police to take DNA without due process, the Supreme Court hasn’t exactly been friendly about our civil rights. Today, however, we saw a rare victory for those rights in a 9-0 decision:
The Supreme Court unequivocally ruled Wednesday that privacy rights are not sacrificed to 21st- century technology, saying unanimously that police generally must obtain a warrant before searching the cellphone of someone they arrest.
While the specific protection may not affect the average American, the court made a bold statement that the same concern about government prying that animated the nation’s birth applies to the abundance of digital information about an individual in the modern world.
Modern cellphones “hold for many Americans the privacies of life,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote for a court united behind the opinion’s expansive language. “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.”
Most cell phones on the market today essentially double as a computer we’re able to take with us everywhere we go. And for most of us we’re constantly logged into a number of essential and private applications, from email to texts to Facebook to whatever the latest trend happens to be. Allowing free wheeling access to these things is hardly different from giving over our mail, bank account information, and phone conversations. (Not that the illegal arm of the government, the NSA, doesn’t already have most or all of this stuff on file.)
This case was one of those rare no brainers where the only people against the inevitable decision were those with an interest in actively disregarding and violating individual rights.