The Supreme Court on Wednesday unanimously ruled that police generally may not search the cellphones of Americans who have been arrested without a search warrant, reports Mother Jones. In a sweeping win for digital privacy rights, the justices recognized that cellphones contain “vast quantities of personal information” and are fundamentally different than other items that a person might have on his or her body when arrested.
“Before cell phones, a search of a person was limited by physical realities and generally constituted only a narrow intrusion on privacy. But cell phones can store millions of pages of text, thousands of pictures or hundreds of videos. This has several interrelated privacy consequences,” reads the opinion, which reverses the decision of the California appellate court in Riley v. California. The justices concluded that officers may examine the phone's physical aspects to ensure that it will not be used as a weapon, but may not comb through the data without a warrant.