Friday, February 19, 2010

Web cams and iPhones: More Scary Cases Involving Privacy Issues!

Look, just because I'm making another post about the government and privacy issues, it doesn't mean that I'm becoming a conspiracy theorist! However, two more cases which are "in the news" should make all of us, who are lovers of freedom, a little more wary about whether or not "Big Brother is watching you!"


The first case, in Pennsylvania, involves a school official who allegedly spied on a 15 year old student at home via a web cam installed on a school-issued laptop computer. The computers had been provided to all high school students in that school district. The family of the student has filed a lawsuit against the school district and alleged that a school official must have spied on their son because he complained to their son about his alleged unspecified inappropriate behavior while in the privacy of his own home. These allegations, if proven true, should get the attention of everyone who is concerned about government spying and invasions of privacy!
The second case, in San Mateo County, California, involves a police search of an arrested suspect's cell phone. Supreme Court precedents generally allow the police to search a person, (and the area within their immediate control), incident to a lawful arrest. The primary purpose of this exception to the general rule (that the police should have a search warrant) is to allow the police to search an arrested person for guns or other weapons which might be used against the arresting officer, (and to prevent the destruction of evidence by the suspect). However, in this California case, the police went much further by searching a suspect's iPhone in his possession for possible evidence to be used against him. This case, in my opinion, is, admittedly, a closer case than the Pennsylvania webcam spying case. However, in my opinion, even in cases like this one, the courts should generally come down on the side of individual freedom and privacy. In other words, the courts should decide that the police must obtain a search warrant before they can search an arrested person's cell phone, laptop, or other private, information-storing electronic or computer devices.
Again, it is important to point out that the primary purpose of this warrantless search exception is to allow limited intrusions in order to protect police officer's lives. But not many police officers need to worry about a suspect using a cell phone as a weapon against them! Therefore, the courts should not allow this limited search exception for weapons to be expanded into an unlimited "fishing expedition" for evidence! To search for evidence, the police should generally still be required to obtain a search warrant from a neutral and detached magistrate! In my opinion, the Fourth Amendment of our Constitution demands it!
Even though I may be a former federal prosecutor, I still believe the police must do their jobs properly. Here's hoping that the courts in such cases will side with those who are concerned about freedom and privacy. And here's hoping that each of us will be more and more alert to the fact that "Big Brother" may be watching each of us! What do you think?

1 comment:

  1. When I heard this on the news I couldn't believed my ears. The school gives all the students laptops and they were spying on each of them at home. What was the purpose of the school spying on our children. Nothing to say about invading our privacy.