Cross-posted from Truthdig
Wednesday's unanimous Supreme Court decision affirming a robust Fourth Amendment protection for cellphone data is an enormously important victory for privacy rights in the digital age. It is also a reminder that support as well as opposition to civil liberty these days can come from unexpected quarters. Or maybe it is no longer much of a surprise that our constitutional-law-professor-turned-president cares so little for the protections enumerated in the Bill of Rights.
In an opinion endorsed by all factions on the court, Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. summarily rejected the assertion of the Obama Justice Department and the liberal attorney general of California, defending that state's top court's view, that a warrantless search of the vast data contained on a cellphone is comparable to looking into a detainee's cigarette pack or reading a few pages tucked into his pocket. Limited searches that the court has previously accepted as consistent with the Fourth Amendment.
Instead of treating "the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures" as an irrelevant antiquity of the pre-computer age, Roberts turned the argument on its head insisting that a cellphone's data requires greater constitutional protection because the personal information it contains is so vast. As Roberts wrote in dismissing the U.S Justice Department and California's equation of cellphone data to previously acceptable incidental body searches: