Tech Watch: New Law Would Require Warrants To Search Smartphones

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The Verizon version of the Apple iPhone. (Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images)

The Verizon version of the Apple iPhone. (Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images)

Brian Cooley’s Tech Watch
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SACRAMENTO (CBS SF) — The state legislature is poised to pass a bill that would prevent law officials from searching the smartphones or other electronic devices of people they arrest without a search warrant.

This follows a State Supreme Court ruling that said that searching the devices was legal as it was no different than searching someone’s clothing.

CNET Editor-at-Large Brian Cooley explains that there is a rich amount of information in smartphones, tablets, laptops, etc. Currently, there’s a warrant required to search these other computing devices but not smartphones. They got categorized with cellphones even though they contain a lot more information than these other devices.

Smartphones have more than just a snap shot of current activity but a lot of history, including your past and connections, which could be valuable information for law enforcement, Cooley said.

This is similar to a case a few years ago regarding black boxes in cars, Cooley added. These boxes, like black boxes in plane, record limited amount of data. California became the first state to say not anyone can get access to this – a search warrant was needed in the case of a big accident.

“California tends to be one of the first states to test this intersection of old laws with new technology.”

You can hear his Tech Watch report Tuesdays and Thursdays at 1:50 P.M. on KCBS All News 740AM and 106.9FM.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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