In a groundbreaking decision on cell phone privacy, the court set powerful limits for police searches of cell phones, ruling in two consolidated cases that law enforcement must get a warrant before accessing the data on an arrested person’s cell phone.  The Supreme Court unanimously ruled yesterday that police must obtain a warrant before searching the contents of a cell phone seized from someone who has been arrested, absent a true emergency situation. The American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation  had filed an amicus brief in the case, Riley v. California.

Steven R. Shapiro, the national legal director of the ACLU, had this reaction:

“By recognizing that the digital revolution has transformed our expectations of privacy, today’s decision is itself revolutionary and will help to protect the privacy rights of all Americans. We have entered a new world but, as the court today recognized, our old values still apply and limit the government’s ability to rummage through the intimate details of our private lives.”  The EFF was equally as optimistic about the ruling.

“These decisions are huge for digital privacy,” EFF Staff Attorney Hanni Fakhoury said. “The court recognized that the astounding amount of sensitive data stored on modern cell phones requires heightened privacy protection, and cannot be searched at a police officer’s whim. This should have implications for other forms of government electronic searches and surveillance, tightening the rules for police behavior and preserving our privacy rights in our increasingly digital world.”


In its opinion, the court confirmed the importance of the warrant requirement, writing “Our answer to the question of what police must do before searching a cell phone seized incident to an arrest is accordingly simple—get a warrant.”

Writing the court’s opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts said:

“Modern cell phones are not just another technological convenience. With all they contain and all they may reveal, they hold for many Americans ‘the privacies of life’… The fact that technology now allows an individual to carry such information in his hand does not make the information any less worthy of the protection for which the Founders fought. Our answer to the question of what police must do before searching a cell phone seized incident to an arrest is accordingly simple—get a warrant.”

(above sources Electronic Frontier Foundation and ACLU  press release)

Here at the Knoxville Focus we spoke exclusively with two individuals on the absolute cutting technological digital edge of private communication to get their perspective on what this ruling means to them.

We first spoke with John Ackerly, CEO of Virtru. It has been a very busy month for both him and his company. As recently reported in the Washington Post, Virtru  has recently raised over ten million dollars from high profile investors. See source

“Our laws are finally catching up to where we are technologically as a society,” said John Ackerly, CEO of Virtru, a digital privacy and data security company. “Our phones, our emails, and our computers have all become extensions of our thoughts — and people deserve the right the keep their private thoughts private and away from legal fishing expeditions.”

Gary  Miliefsky,   the CEO of  Snoopwall, is a world renown expert on digital privacy and runs a company that specializes in the advanced field of  counterveillance  and  cyber intrusion protection and defense  for digital privacy.  Here is his opinion on the matter.

“Thus marks the beginning of the swing of the pendulum of justice in America, back to a state of sanity.  There’s much more to be done and the NSA’s over-reach, according to John Chambers, CEO of Cisco, has caused a massive lack of trust in Made In America, worldwide.  It’s time we fix this problem, here at home, and then begin to show our potential customers, worldwide, that American made telco equipment and security products are trustworthy, once again.”


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