February 8, 2010 | By Marcia Hofmann

EFF Asks Court to Suppress Evidence Illegally Gathered From Password-Protected Phone

Our cell phones aren't just for calls anymore. They hold our address books, our calendars, our emails, and our grocery lists. They may even include things like a list of questions to ask your doctor, pictures of your girlfriend, or URLs of web sites you've visited. When can police search your phone and look at all this information?

That's the question that EFF is asking a court in California to consider. Police in Daly City, California seized a suspect's iPhone during his arrest. Hours later, investigators bypassed the password and searched through the data on the device without a search warrant. After the officers realized that the information was too extensive to write down, they finally obtained a warrant to search the phone.

EFF has urged the court to suppress evidence gathered by police from the suspect's phone during the warrantless search, including contacts, called phone numbers, emails, text messages, Internet search history, and photos. EFF has also asked the judge to quash the warrant that was eventually issued in part based on the information illegally accessed on the phone.

Of course, criminal suspects will have a lot of information on their cell phones that might be of interest to police, and when investigators have enough evidence to get a warrant, they should be able to search these devices. But if the police can search anyone's cell phone at any time, then everyone's privacy is at risk.

The court will hear the motion on February 18 at 9:00 a.m. in Redwood City, California.


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