Cell Phone Data a Legal Gray Area in the Courts

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What happens when technology moves faster than the laws that govern it? That’s the major question before courts across the country, as cell phones, and the overwhelming amount of data they hold, become evidence. 

Congress passed the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, the law that governs email communications, in 1986, a lifetime ago in the tech world. The Senate will consider changes to the law on Thursday. According to The New York Times, courts have used the ECPA "to permit warrantless surveillance of certain kinds of cellphone data."

Peter Swire, professor at Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law, worked on law and privacy issues for Presidents Clinton and Obama. He explains how should courts deal with the emails, text messages, and social media accounts found on the cell phones of suspected criminals.