In the U.S., if the police come knocking at your door, the Constitution offers you some protection. But the Constitution is just a piece of paper—if you don’t know how to assert your rights. And even if you do assert your rights…what happens next? That answer may seem complicated, but protecting yourself is simple if you know your rights.
That’s why EFF has launched an updated Know Your Rights Guide that explains your legal rights when law enforcement try to search the data stored on your computer, cell phone, or other electronic device.
The guide clarifies when the police can search devices, describes what to do if police do (or don’t) have a warrant, and explains what happens if the police can’t get into a device because of encryption or other security measures.
Our guide is up to date as of October 2014, and will always indicate when it was last updated. While the Constitution stays the same, there are constantly new court opinions interpreting the law in light of new technologies. Since we first published a Know Your Rights whitepaper in 2011, state and federal courts, including the US Supreme Court, have issued key opinions that affect rights around search and seizure. In an important 2012 decision in United States v. Jones, the US Supreme Court ruled police could not install a GPS device onto a car without a search warrant. And in the seminal 2014 case Riley v. California, the same court ruled an arrest isn’t sufficient reason to search a cell phone without a warrant. We expect there to be many new cases interpreting Jones and Riley to other forms of technologies, and will keep our Guide updated with those new developments.
Remember, when it comes to your legal rights, what you don’t know can hurt you. Read our guide, share it with your friends and family, and be prepared!