May 20, 2013
What the Government Can Get From Your iPhone
Posted on Feb 27, 2013
A court document obtained by the ACLU reveals the kind of data federal agents are able to pull off of a seized iPhone using “advanced forensic analysis tools.”
“The list,” writes electronic privacy expert Chris Soghoian, “starkly demonstrates just how invasive cell phone searches are—and why law enforcement should be required to obtain a warrant before conducting them.”
The iPhone was seized from a suspect’s bedroom during a drug bust. In a single sweep, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents were able to extract call activity, contact lists, voice mails and text messages, photos and videos, apps, eight different passwords and 659 “geolocation points,” including connections to 227 cellphone towers and 403 Wi-Fi networks.
Before smartphones arrived, Soghoian writes, police had to gain a warrant to access such information, which would be stored in a suspect’s home or office. “Our pockets and bags simply aren’t big enough to carry paper records revealing that much data. We would have never carried around several years’ worth of correspondence, for example—but today, five-year-old emails are just a few clicks away using the smartphone in your pocket. The fact that we now carry this much private, sensitive information around with us means that the government is able to get this information, too.”
Although the ICE obtained a warrant to search the phone in this case, courts are divided about whether one is necessary in these circumstances, and no law requires it. Police officers have claimed they don’t need a warrant during moments of lawful arrest and at U.S. border crossings.
—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.
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