After the spate of shocking revelations about NSA‘s electronic surveillance, US Department of Justice has proposed warrantless searches of electronic devices. A Supreme Court ruling, due soon, will decide whether or not this becomes yet another tool at the hands of law enforcement.
Warrantless search of electronic devices essentially means that the law enforcement agencies can single out any person as a potential ‘suspect’ and ask him/her to hand over any electronic devices he/she may carry and reveal its contents. The proposal raises obvious questions about the privacy of the individual as well as the near-certain potential misuse of these powers at the hands of the authorities.
The twisted logic behind the proposal is that since there are kill-switches which can remotely wipe data from an electronic device, warrant allows a potential suspect to use such a kill-switch. So while the law is busy seeking a warrant, a suspect can easily erase incriminating data on his device in the meantime.
At this point, it is important to note that the kill-switches in smartphones were built after the incessant clamoring of the lawmakers. And as such, they are designed to help people erase data in the case of smartphone theft or loss. The proposal shows how the authorities feel entitled to every nook and corner of a citizen’s private life, merely on ‘suspicion’, a term which can be very broadly and subjectively defined.
The only hope at this point is a Supreme Court ruling due on Tuesday. The ruling will set precedent on whether or not warrantless search of electronic devices is something that is legal as per the U.S. Constitution.