Privacy laws in the United States need an upgrade. Rapid advances in cellphones and computers are outstripping the ability of old laws to protect our personal lives.

Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to decide whether police need a search warrant before they look at text messages and other information on cellphones of people they have arrested or detained.

That’s unfortunate. This is an area of the law that needs careful re-examination, and it needs to be done on the national level because we carry our phones with us from state to state.

Cellphones, along with laptops and tablet computers, can contain our life stories. Someone with your cellphone can read your past text messages, no matter how personal the content is. The phone can reveal whom you have called, who your contacts are, what your finances are like, what’s on your personal calendar, photos of your friends and all of your recent email and voice mail.

That’s information many of us would be less than eager to place in the hands of authorities — or any other strangers.

The case the Supreme Court declined to take came out of California, where police found incriminating evidence in a text message after they searched the phone of a man suspected of taking part in a drug deal. The California Supreme Court applied a rule that allows police without a warrant to examine items found on a person who is detained or arrested.

That rule works for a pack of cigarettes. But not for a smartphone.

Prompt, warrantless searches do have a proper place in the law. Police need them to make sure detainees aren’t carrying weapons or destroying evidence.

But expanding that law to include mass-storage devices opens the door to troubling scenarios.

The Supreme Court needs to step in and resolve this issue.

— Chicago Sun-Times, Oct. 6

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