State lawmakers aim to help protect citizens' digital privacy - - Columbia, South Carolina

State lawmakers aim to help protect citizens' digital privacy


The Supreme Court issued a ruling regarding who can search and seize your cell phone.

The ruling forces law enforcement agencies to take another step before being able to look through your phone data legally.

A similar measure to protect information on your cell phone from police was shot down in South Carolina, but bill sponsors say the need for digital privacy protection laws is only going to grow as more personal information becomes available digitally.

"Our cell phones contain more information in one place than we've had in our lives," said Democratic House Minority Leader Rep. Todd Rutherford.

Cell phones have been useful investigative tools for law enforcement.

"If we were investigating, locked up a gang member or someone for armed robbery or murder or whatever," Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said, "we always look at their phones. They like to take pictures." 

Now, investigators will have a few more hoops to jump through before gaining access to your cell phone data because of this ruling. Although investigators can still seize your phone, there is one major change before the data can be accessed.

"We will just have to get search warrants now," Lott said. " So, it's not going to be cause us to not be able to investigate case. It's just a little bit of extra work."

The ruling, to some, could be viewed as a benefit for citizens.

"It keeps the government, Big Brother, from looking at everything you have that is private," defense attorney Pete Strom said.

But some legislators believe the ruling doesn't go far enough and state legislation needs to look closely at other emerging technology.

"There's already some case law developing that says you may not be able to put a GPS tracking device on someone's vehicle without probable cause," Strom noted.

A plan by state lawmakers to reintroduce a digital privacy bill that prohibits law enforcement from accessing other emerging personal technology is in the works. House Minority Leader Rutherford said investigators should not be allowed to seize your phone without probable cause.

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