Warrantless cell phone search gets a green light in California

According to the California Supreme Court, police don’t need a warrant to start digging through your phone’s contents.

[the defendant] had argued that the warrantless search of his phone violated his Fourth Amendment rights, but the trial court said that anything found on his person at the time of arrest was “really fair game in terms of being evidence of a crime.”

The decision was not unanimous, though. “The potential intrusion on informational privacy involved in a police search of a person‟s mobile phone, smartphone or handheld computer is unique among searches of an arrestee’s person and effects,” Justices Kathryn Mickle Werdegar and Carlos Moreno wrote in dissent.

They went on to argue that the court majority’s opinion would allow police “carte blanche, with no showing of exigency, to rummage at leisure through the wealth of personal and business information that can be carried on a mobile phone or handheld computer merely because the device was taken from an arrestee’s person. The majority thus sanctions a highly intrusive and unjustified type of search, one meeting neither the warrant requirement nor the reasonableness requirement of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution.”

I wonder if the police can force you to unlock your password-protected phone, or if that order would constitute the unreasonable part of the search? 

Also, I’m surprised to not hear any argument about the data not actually existing on your person, the same way a piece of hair or a paint chip would.  Sure, the cell phone’s physical case travels in your pocket, but identifying exactly where the incriminating data resides is a bit more tricky.  A text message certainly is stored on the phone itself, but what about emails?  They’re downloaded to the phone, but would most accurately be described as living in the cloud – because they can be accessed from numerous different portals. 

And this is no small point.  Whereas a piece of hair from a murder victim or a fingerpriont does pretty much conclusively show your physical presence at the location, given we can only exist in one place, data does not.  The text message could have been sent from any number of devices, and consumed from afar, even by people other than the defendant.  It seems an extraordinarily shirtsighted decision to treat ephemeral data as if it had a physical presence – and to therefore applies to same rules of physics to it.

F.C.C. Head Expected to Approve Comcast-NBC Deal – NYTimes.com

The Federal Communications Commission chairman, Julius Genachowski, signaled his approval of Comcast’s acquisition of NBC Universal on Thursday, but that approval will come with conditions.

Among the anticipated stipulations is that Comcast not withhold NBC programming from its competitors in the online video market and that it allow rival distributors to have reasonable access to NBC Universal programming.

How on earth the FCC thinks it’s going to be able to regulate the entire library of NBC content and separate that from the Comcast pipeline, esepcially when they’re already collaborating on content production, baffles me. Good luck, and thanks for approving the creation of the largest media organization ever!

Facebook Woos Big Media

Facebook and Time Warner are now talking about using the social network’s login system to “authenticate” cable subscribers who want to watch online video from cable channels like TBS and HBO. Sources familiar with the companies’ plans say they are in early stages, but that the two companies are hoping to link up first with Verizon’s FiOS TV  service.

Nifty. I wonder, though, if Facebook will share your private data with TWC? That’s not an option I’d consider too seriously given the infoscape and TWC’s past history…

Jon Stewart, the Advocate, on the 9/11 Health Bill – NYTimes.com

Jon Stewart, the host of the channel’s “The Daily Show,” was outraged last week about Republican efforts to block a bill that would provide more medical care to first responders to the World Trade Center terrorist attack in 2001. He called the Republican filibuster “an outrageous abdication of our responsibility to those who were most heroic on 9/11.”

Mr. Stewart was also angry about the lack of television coverage. “None of the three broadcast networks have mentioned any of this on their evening newscasts for two and a half months,” he said, seemingly trying to shame them into covering the bill. He also contrasted the Fox News Channel’s extensive coverage of the controversy over the wrongly called “9/11 mosque” with its little coverage of the first responders bill.

And it made an impression on the news media. The next day on the Fox News Channel Shepard Smith called the delays “shameful” and asked, “Are we going to leave these American heroes out there to twist in the wind?” He said Mr. Stewart had been “absolutely right” to challenge Congress on the issue.

Stewart becomes a legitimate political advocate, and Fox news commends him for it? What’s going on here?