The controversy of access to cell phone data by law enforcement has reached the courts. Cyberbullying, Sexting, and Cyberstalking and event Texting when driving has created new and demanding changes to access of cell phone records and stored data. The increased use of cell phones by terrorist and extremist groups has called for increased scrutiny of the collection and transmission of data by federal and local law enforcement.
Law enforcement has for years obtained warrants for cell phones that suspected individuals are using for criminal activity. Obtaining this information has been a challenge. The question of privacy has raised concern and public attention for the enforcement of Constitutional rights.
Most cell phone users believe that their content that is in a digital format cannot be shared or accessed without permission, but this is not true. The 5th District Court of Appeals ruled in ‘Florida vs Ricardo Glasco’ that law enforcement can search a cell phone without a warrant. The Stored Communications Act that exists does not need to show probable cause to access e-mails or electronic information that has been stored on a server for more than six months by wireless companies.
Digital communication creates a paradigm for digital information. Applying the Constitution of the Unites States where illegal search and seizure would apply, this makes the rulings questionable because the founding fathers were not aware of digital communication in the form of Smartphone’s, Tablets and other electronic devices.
Storing of data for most companies at least three years and IP (Internet Protocol) information for three or more years. IP Protocols allow cell phones to access the Internet so data can be uploaded or downloaded. Each device has a number that allows the Internet to “see” the phone as a connected node online.
The Fourth Amendment (Amendment IV) to the United States Constitution. Many of the issues that law enforcement must address, a matter of public safety v. privacy. Laws were not and still are not able to properly address the advances of technology. When youth as young as 7 can manipulate a Smartphone to access online content that spans the world we live in, engage in multimedia games like Angry Bird and Angry Sharks, access Google Maps that can pinpoint anywhere in the world and the ability to communicate instantly by voice, text, video and audio these capabilities allow for terrorist groups and extremists to create potential dangers to the public.
Smartphone’s can capture pictures, video, text conversations, emails, banking information and much more. As I have taught my Educational Technology class at Edward Waters College and during workshops and presentations with youth. Youth do not realize that their data never really goes away. It is stored on a server someplace.
Smartphone’s are a computer with all the tools (protocols) of a laptop or tablet. Youth send more text messaging than voice data. Many do not realize that in text messaging detailed information on who you text and what you text is keep hold of for a minimum of a year, but some companies keeping it for up to seven years or longer; the same for video and pictures.
Many in law enforcement rationalize just that and work to keep up with the growing capabilities of wireless technology. In other court rulings, ”The federal appellate court ruled that a criminal suspect cannot be forced to give you the password to phone or computer.” Results may change in the other direction with the world wide war on terrorism grows; citizens need to understand that the 5th District Court of Appeals ruling changes many perceptions and ideas about their protections for electronic devices. Just as computers can be seized when there is child porn detected, this ruling can be applied to Smartphone’s when the potential arises for revealing criminal activity and Sexting.
Technology is changing many rules of communication. These changes affect current and future laws and the ability to prosecute criminals, but also make sure the innocent’s rights are protected. The increase of minorities using wireless technology this may show cause for alarm because of the implications of Digital Profiling against minority groups. Pew Internet & American Life Project reported 64 percent of African Americans access the Internet over their laptop or mobile phone in 2011. This is an increase from 57 percent who said they did in 2009 and the numbers are growing because of the increased wireless speeds. Aaron Smith, author of the Pew report, stated, “The mobile population is becoming more diverse over time and more people are relying on their cell phones as their primary form of wireless connectivity.” Even lower income families that cannot afford Internet in their homes use wireless phones to surf the web and gather information.
Caution and wisdom is needed in creating digital content on any device. In the world of digital sniffers, digital watchdogs, and digital robots that probe the Internet for dangerous content everyone must be aware and informed. That App that you download may do more than play music, use GPS or find a good restaurant. It may be checking your data and sending it someplace else.
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