When the cuffs come out, how much privacy are we willing to sacrifice? We already sacrifice a lot. As a rule, the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution requires police to obtain a warrant before searching a person or his home or possessions. But since at least the 1920s, that requirement has been eliminated in what is known as a “search incident to arrest.” What the rule means is, once a person is arrested, a cop can search anything on that person.That rule was developed for fear that a person would be carrying weapons that might hurt the officer, or contraband such as drugs that might be destroyed once an individual is let go. When that rule was developed, nobody carried electronics on their person that could tell a cop more information about them than searching their entire home.Ninety-one percent of Americans now own a cell phone, and 61 percent of those are smartphones, according to a 2013 Pew survey. So when cops arrest you for something, anything, they might be able to search your phone. And with conviction rates as low as 16 percent for some crimes, police have the potential to gather vast swaths of data from mere suspects never convicted of a crime, no matter how minor the offense.
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