Will the 4th Amendment protect us in the Social Media Age?

Since entering law school in the Fall of 1995, I have watched how the law has evolved to deal with the issues inherent in the Internet Age and now the Social Media Age. The proliferation of cellphones, laptops, Blackberries, iPhones, iPads, Droids, etc… enables us to house our entire lives in one portable electronic device.

It is great to have all of our personal information easily accessible in one place. However, with all of this technology there are many privacy issues that need to be addressed. For example, does the government have the right to access the data contained in our cell phones and other personal electronic devices without a warrant?

In California, Governor Jerry Brown vetoed legislation that would have required a warrant to search the cell phone of a person who has been arrested. This decision by Governor Brown demonstrates a lack of understanding of technology and how we are using it. Cellphones and other personal electronic devices along with our electronic accounts contain a tremendous amount of personal information.

Searching our cell phones, Droids, Blackberries, iPhones, etc….may be akin to searching our homes. Some people keep more private information on their personal electronic devices than in their home so our personal electronic devices should have the same 4th Amendment protections that apply to our homes. California allows law enforcement officials to search a person’s cell phone without a warrant if they arrested. However, in Ohio, a warrant is required to search a cell phone unless it is necessary to preserve evidence or unless it is necessary for an officer’s safety.

Unless there are exigent circumstances, law enforcement should have no right to search our personal electronic devices unless they have a warrant. We live in a world where all of our personal information can be carried around with us in a small electronic device. Therefore, it is time for the 4th Amendment’s protections to account for the Social Media Age.

To learn more about these issues you may contact me at www.shearlaw.com.

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