CPJ commends U.S. Supreme Court decision requiring warrant for cellphone searches

San Francisco, June 25, 2014–The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes today’s unanimous ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that held that law enforcement officials need search warrants to search the mobile phones of individuals they arrest. The court found that the data found in cellphones should be protected from routine inspection, news reports said.

“Today’s decision closes a dangerous loophole faced by journalists who use mobile devices for newsgathering and reporting,” said CPJ Internet Advocacy Coordinator Geoffrey King. “Under the old rule, an officer could search a reporter’s electronic devices with an arrest for any alleged minor offense. Today, the Supreme Court rightly recognized that if people are to benefit from technological change, governments must be limited in their ability to exploit it to their own ends.”

News organizations, including The New York Times, had argued in a friend-of-the-court brief earlier this year that mobile technologies “have greatly expanded the ability to gather and report news,” while at the same time creating a “grave threat” to journalism if data can be searched without restriction. Today’s ruling may also have implications for other warrantless searches, such as those conducted at the U.S. border.