Electronic Device Searches
Our laptops, tablets, and smartphones contain staggering quantities of personal data. As the U.S. Supreme Court recognized in Riley v. California, smartphones serve not only as telephones, but also as “cameras, video players, rolodexes, calendars, tape recorders, libraries, diaries, albums, televisions, maps, or newspapers.”
As electronic storage costs go down and electronic devices proliferate, we keep ever greater quantities of private information, from email correspondence to medical records, on our devices. Safeguarding this data against unreasonable government searches is an ACLU priority.
The ACLU filed a friend-of-the-court brief in Riley v. California, a seminal case that resulted in the Supreme Court holding that police must get a warrant if they want to search the contents of a person’s cell phone after placing that person under arrest. The ACLU has also advocated for reasonable limits on the government’s power to search people’s laptops and phones at the border and for the power of judges to restrict the scope of government searches of computers to avoid overbroad fishing expeditions.
The ACLU also fights to preserve people’s ability to safeguard their own electronic data, including by using strong encryption on their devices. These and other efforts to protect privacy will continue to be vital as electronic devices become ever more central to our lives.