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Legal showdown looms on cellphone privacy


Legal showdown looms on cellphone privacy

APRIL 6, 2014    LAST UPDATED: SUNDAY, APRIL 6, 2014, 1:21 AM

As new technology continues to collide with privacy rights, the U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear arguments this month in two cases involving police searches of cellphones that could have a major impact on the privacy of everyone who carries a mobile device.

The cases are being watched closely by the country’s top civil liberties groups, privacy advocates and constitutional scholars, many who’ve joined in with filings in defense of privacy. The high court’s stand will guide how courts across the country will apply constitutional privacy rights and the safeguards against unreasonable searches in the age of smartphones, tablets, phablets, Google Glass and “wearable” computers.

“Technology changes the nature of the game,” said Christopher Slobogin, a law professor at Vanderbilt University and author of “Privacy at Risk: The New Government Surveillance and the Fourth Amendment.”

“The justices would need to rethink what the Fourth Amendment is all about,” he said. The amendment protects against unreasonable searches.

It was discord between courts at opposite ends of the country that landed the issue before the justices. In one case, police arrested Brima Wurie of Boston in 2007 on suspicion of selling drugs, and, after taking him to a police station, they seized two cellphones and searched his call log.

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