Phones and phone records are increasingly subject to search warrants when the police suspect an individual is involved in criminal activity. Unfortunately, the law has not kept up with the technology and it is unclear how much leeway the police have to search an individual's cloud services information after getting a phone search warrant.
Are Cloud Services Part of the Phone?
Smartphones are often used more for accessing online services, social media, and communicating via text than for making phone calls. Many of these online services are “cloud-based,” meaning information, files, and data is stored remotely on servers that may be in a different city, state, or even another country. Even users may be unclear how much of this information is on their phones or if it is being accessed remotely.
When the police seek a search warrant for a phone, the search request may or may not include a request for information stored remotely but accessible through the phone. If the search warrant does not include a request for access to cloud information available on the phone, it is unclear whether accessing that information would be valid. Some judges who regularly authorize these search warrants may not understand what information is stored physically on the phone, stored remotely but accessible through the phone, or is stored both on the phone and remotely.
What Information Does My Phone Have About Me?
Use of social media, apps, and cloud services can end up gathering a significant amount of information on a user. Using things like Google Maps or Facebook can track your location, show where you went and when, and even show how much time you spent at a given location. Unfortunately, it may be difficult to know how to turn off tracking or information gathering. The technology companies may also be hiding just how much information they gather. There are plenty of valid reasons why you would not want others to have access to this personal information.
Does a Search Warrant of a Phone Include Cloud Information?
A professor at the UNC School of Government recently wrote about whether search warrants for phones may include cloud services. Arguments against allowing a phone search to extend to cloud services include the extent of personal information available on the phones for many people and could include information about a person's daily life since they were a child.
As one court stated, “A warrant for the search of an individual's cell phone may, in some cases, be practically equivalent to a warrant for the search of the individual's entire digital presence wherever found.”
Increasing Request for Digital Phone Records
When the police seek a search warrant for phone records, they may end up requesting multiple warrants, including a warrant for the physical phone, the device manufacturer to access a locked phone, the cell phone carrier, and for big data companies like Google or Facebook.
What Are the Police Doing With My Phone After an Arrest in Shelby?
After an arrest, the police may seize an individual's phone or get a search warrant to access the phone and the phone's contents. However, just because the police have a warrant does not mean the warrant authorizes an unlimited search of your digital life. At Caulder & Valentine Law Firm, PLLC, we have helped individuals suppress evidence illegally gathered in violation of their constitutional rights against unlawful search and seizure. Contact us today for a consultation.