Protecting Your Cellphone Privacy

The Ohio Supreme Court has ruled that the contents of your cellphone is private information and authorities can not browse your mobile device without a warrant.  This is great news for the American People.


The Ohio Supreme Court ruled this month, by a 4-to-3 vote, that the search violated the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable search and seizure. Rather than seeing a cellphone as a simple closed container, the majority noted that modern cellphones — especially ones that permit Internet access — are “capable of storing a wealth of digitized information.”

This is information, the court said, for which people reasonably have a high expectation of privacy, and under established Fourth Amendment principles, police officers must get a search warrant before they can look through call logs or examine other data. The court wisely decided that it made no sense to try to distinguish among various kinds of cellphones based on what specific functions they have. All cellphones, the court said, fall under the search warrant requirement.

The judges were wise in their decision.  Modern smartphones contain a great deal of information that you don’t want falling into unauthorized hands.  Today many people sync their entire online address book to their phones.  Also consider that social networking applications app could expose your associations beyond the address book on your phone. And while not sound information security practice, many small businesses use free email services and employees do work on personal equipment.  As an employee, you could be exposing your employer’s business to unauthorized viewing.  Small business employers should also be concerned.  You normally don’t want just anyone reading your company information without a proper NDA.  If you are planning to IPO anytime soon, this would not be a good thing.

You can protect yourself by setting the password on your phone.  I won’t go into specific details since there are many different phones.  A 4-digit PIN is all you can get out of most older phones.  If you have the option to set a password that consists of other characters you might consider enabling that feature. Password protecting your phone will also help prevent anyone from going through its contents or making calls using your account.  If you’re going to put a password on your phone for privacy reasons, then consider the cost of someone using your phone to make international long distance calls. 

Many people put off reading the user manual, but now might be the time to take a look.

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