Latest News 2017 December Can You Protect Your Phone Privacy During a Police Encounter?

Can You Protect Your Phone Privacy During a Police Encounter?

If you've been pulled over or stopped on the street by a police officer, they may ask for your consent to look at your phone. As phones contain a great deal of information about a person's interests, activities, and contacts, phone information has been a crucial piece of evidence in all types of trials and arrests nationwide. Phones can provide proof of connection between suspects, reveal where a person has been, and can be a record of what a person says or does.

Unfortunately for suspects, courts aren't quite sure how to enforce your right to privacy regarding your phone. Case in point: did you know that there is currently a difference between how a phone's lock is protected based on whether it can be unlocked with a passcode vs. a fingerprint? A passcode lock is more clearly seen as privileged information—which officers cannot demand from you without a warrant. However, forcing you to use a fingerprint is easier for officers, as your physical compliance is enforceable by law.

However, there are some ways you can protect your privacy more effectively, even when the courts aren't sure what to do about smartphones yet.

#1: Use a Passcode & Disable Fingerprint Unlock

Like we mentioned above, it's easier to protect your privacy when your phone is locked with a passcode. It's also easier to prove wrongful arrest if you're arrested after being forced to use your passcode without your consent. In general, officers are less likely to force you to give up your passcode—and you can legitimately wait for an attorney to arrive before complying.

#2: Encrypt Your Information

Encryption ensures that your information is indecipherable to anyone but you and the people you authorize. Smartphones from all major manufacturers usually come with full-disk encryption options. In addition, in-transit encryption is possible to protect your texts and browser passwords. Encryption is especially strong when the service provider is unable to access your information—so even if an app maker or an ISP is subpoenaed, they can't breach your privacy.

#3: Never Hand Over Your Phone

More to the point—don't have your phone out during a police encounter. If you hand over the phone, it's easier to claim that you voluntarily allowed it to be searched. If you're in a car, leave it in the car. If you're on the street, leave it in your pocket. Keeping it out of your reach gives you plausible reason not to hand it over and prevents the officer from saying you "consented" to a search.

Categories: Illegal Searches