The case in question dates back to 2007, when a man from Massachusetts was arrested for allegedly selling crack cocaine. The defendant appealed his conviction, arguing that the warrantless search of his phone violated his 4th amendment rights, and a 1st circuit court accepted the argument earlier this year, ruling that the police had acted unlawfully. Last month the Obama administration stepped in and petitioned the Supreme Court to hear the case and rule that the cellphone search is, in fact, lawful, because, "a cellphone is no different than any other object a suspect might be carrying" and thus fair game for searches.
Yet, civil liberties advocates charge that cell phones contain vast troves of personal information, and warrantless access constitutes a severe violation of privacy rights. Obama is pushing for warrantless cell searches as a public scandal about unlawful NSA spying—which includes warrantless collecting of phone data—continues to spiral. Blasting a military that still acts with impunity and a judiciary that still serves as "the Occupation's fig leaf," Israel's foremost human rights organization B’Tselem has declared it will stop seeking justice for Palestinians by working with military courts they long hoped would become "a path to accountability." The move is the latest sign - along with a new uber-hawk defense minister - that Israel will continue its grim plunge into right-wing extremism. Two identical bills filed at the end of last month in the state House and Senate propose a series of amendments to the Texas code of criminal procedure. In addition, the amendments would oblige all telecom providers in the state to produce an annual transparency report showing the number of surveillance requests made, broken down by each law enforcement agency making the request and detailing the type of data desired. Before being taken up by Hughes and Hinojosa, the legislation was authored by a group calling itself the Texas Electronic Privacy Coalition—which consists of the ACLU of Texas, Texans for Accountable Government, EFF-Austin, and the Texas criminal justice blog Grits for Breakfast. Last year, a congressional inquiry revealed that the major wireless carriers received more than 1.3 million requests for subscriber data from law enforcement in 2011 alone. A landmark Supreme Court case in January last year ruled that tracking someone by sticking a GPS on his vehicle should be protected by the Fourth Amendment’s protections against unwarranted searches and seizures.


The DOJ will no doubt be watching developments in Texas closely—hoping that a backlash against warrantless tracking in the state is not the start of a trend. On Monday night, Alain Philippon, a Canadian citizen, was passing through customs at a Nova Scotia airport when border patrol officers demanded that he provide the password to his smartphone.
Philippon’s legal battle against this absurd abuse of power is principled and important. This outward balancing of rights and limits, now called proportionality, essentially gives judges carte blanche to curtail rights when they believe a more pressing interest has arisen. Both American and Canadian doctrines of privacy rights in a digital age are undergoing a sea change as judges grapple with increasingly tech-savvy criminals. Supreme Court to issue a precedent-setting ruling that the 4th amendment—which prohibits unreasonable and warrantless searches and seizures—somehow allows for warrantless searches of personal cell phones, the Washington Post reports. Police seized his cell phone and, without a warrant, searched its contents to access information that allowed them to locate the defendant's home. But lawmakers in Texas disagree—and are proposing strict new tracking regulations that could place the state at the forefront of nationwide efforts to rein in government surveillance. They would also limit the amount of time a judge can keep secret a court order issued to authorizing tracking.
The group says it is concerned about how much can be learned about a person using location data—and how little is required for authorities to obtain that information. Canadian judges need only show that the law abridging the right is necessary, rationally connected to a proper purpose, and significantly beneficial to society.


Supreme Court has consistently held that the warrant requirement is the rule, and warrantless searches the exception, usually justified only by safety concerns in exigent circumstances. Evidence found at the defendant's home was then used in court, and he was convicted of a felony.
It’s unclear, of course, whether the bill will eventually become law, as police in the state can be expected to lobby aggressively against it.
He was promptly charged with obstructing border security, a criminal charge under the Canadian Customs Act, which he plans to fight in court. Even when they don’t get it right, American judges are at least seriously thinking about how the Constitution protects our electronic devices from intrusive searches. Juan Hinojosa, D-McAllen, would in all but exceptional cases require law enforcement agencies to get a search warrant to obtain cellphone location information—whether the phone is being tracked in real-time or retrospectively. But it’s certainly likely to receive some strong backing if a separate Texas bill seeking to regulate drone use is anything to go by. Canada’s Charter, by comparison, lets judges dispense with the warrant requirement pretty much willy-nilly, so long as they can articulate some plausible justification. Canadian judges seem to have put digital privacy roughly on par with free speech—a nice idea in theory, but just not worth it in fact.



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