Guide Offers Advice For Interacting With Police During Tech Searches

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With so many recent, conflicting court decisions on what police and other law enforcement officials can and cannot do regarding citizens’ technological property, it is easy for one to get confused about his or her rights.

With this in mind, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) recently released the “Know Your Rights” guide, which offers a variety of tips on interacting with officials during searches and seizures of cellphones, computers and more.

“With smart phones, tablet computers, and laptops, we carry around with us an unprecedented amount of sensitive personal information,” said EFF Staff Attorney Hanni Fakhoury in a press release. “That smart phone in your pocket right now could contain email from your doctor or your kid’s teacher, not to mention detailed contact information for all of your friends and family members. Your laptop probably holds even more data — your Internet browsing history, family photo albums, and maybe even things like an electronic copy of your taxes or your employment agreement. This is sensitive data that’s worth protecting from prying eyes.”

The guide provides comprehensive answers to many questions, such as whether police can enter your home to search an electronic device without a warrant (no), whether you have to provide passwords to police while they search your device (no), and whether you can ask to see a warrant (yes).

“In the heat of the moment, it can be hard to remember what your rights are and how to exercise them,” said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Marcia Hofmann in the release. “Sometimes police can search your computer whether you like it or not, but sometimes they can’t. We wrote this guide to help you tell the difference and to empower you to assert your rights when the police come knocking.”

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