The Obama administration requested that the Supreme Court legalize cellphone inspections without a warrant under grounds that it is justified under the Fourth Amendment. In addition to being a blatant social and technological intrusion, this decision has the potential to eradicate cellular privacy completely.
The Obama administration issued a petition to the Supreme Court stating that any item on a suspect is open to search and seizure by the authorities. This implies that the U.S. government seeks to monitor all forms of information regardless of the public's disapproval. The legality of these searches could increase civic unease and chaos. It could ruin many lives and tarnish the American people's trust of their government.
For example, a resident from Massachusetts was arrested for selling cocaine in 2007. Authorities seized his cellphone and inspected the call history, noticing "My House" was a primary caller. Under further investigation, authorities located the man's drug inventory and money. Although convicted, the man informed the First Circuit Court of Appeals that authorities seized his cellphone without a warrant, violating his rights granted by the Fourth Amendment. While the court acknowledged this claim and ruled in the defendant's favor earlier in 2013, the Obama administration disagreed and claimed that this case's verdict conflicts with verdicts from other municipal courts and the Supreme Court.
People remain upset about the illegal data collection conducted by the National Security Agency (NSA). The NSA has accessed global databases and acquired sensitive information through internet searches, personal emails, medical records, email accounts, social networks, and GPS data on cellphones. Thus, many forms of privacy have been compromised and diminished drastically. While the Obama administration may consider its proposal for warrantless cellphone inspections a viable solution for increasing safety and security, it fails to see the dangers of the proposal.
"Warrantless access to today's 'smart' phones would allow police to extract vast personal data about an individual without a warrant, including call logs, phone numbers, text messages, emails, photos, videos, passwords, location data and more," according to World Socialist Web Site. "Information found through such warrantless searches would also violate the constitutional rights of other individuals whose identity and other personal information could be extracted and stored as evidence."
Although the Obama administration's precautions are reasonable, an outbreak of civic violence could manifest as authorities attempt to search and seize cellphones from any citizen. For instance, authorities could approach someone they consider a suspect and request to inspect his or her cellphone. If the suspect refuses, fear and suspicion of the suspect could increase, which could cause civil unrest and police brutality.
Additionally, if the Supreme Court rules in favor of the Obama administration, the effects could be frantic as the information acquired from these cellphone inspections and seizures run the risk of getting into unofficial hands. Other parties could attempt to acquire this information by bribing officers. Hackers can use their resources to gather information obtained by the authorities. If Reuters's Twitter account and Marc Zuckerberg's Facebook account are susceptible to external access, then information on cellphones inspections is as well.
The Obama administration should reconsider the approval of the petition for warrantless cellphone inspections. If passed, this could cause a tremendous breakdown in relations between the U.S. government and citizens, and could heighten the risk of violence between authorities and civilians.