Today, in a unanimous ruling, the US Supreme Court stated that police
officers need a warrant to search cell phones and other devices in
possession of people they arrest. The ruling states that the vast amount
of data contained on today's phones are protected from routine
inspection; one of the points made by the ruling is that we must today
distinguish between a handwritten note, for example, and the large volumes
of data we routinely generate and store on hard drives and data centers in
One implication of the Riley v California ruling may very well be that as
law enforcement agencies obtain warrants for searching devices, they will
also obtain warrants to search data stored in the cloud, since much of the
data (if not a superset) that can be presented via cell phone or other
device is also contained in the cloud. Given that workflows and
investigation procedures are being examined in light of the fact that data
is often stored on networks and in the cloud services of various kinds.
Much as the Supreme Court is saying that personal privacy is impacted by
technology, so too are investigative methods that now need to incorporate
techniques to investigate data stored in various locations.
We are early in the age of understanding the interrelations of digital footprint,
privacy, and investigation, so undoubtedly our thinking and laws will continue to
evolve. Early coverage of implications of the Riley v California decision can be
found in the New York Times, Washington Post, and Politico.