This week was a landslide win for supporters of mobile privacy.
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court protected mobile privacy rights by ruling 9-0 against cellphone searches without a warrant. While this will impact the 12 million people arrested every year, it’s really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to defining what’s reasonable in terms of mobile privacy in the digital age.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. set the stage for how cellphones play a role in our everyday lives.
Roberts, writing on behalf of the court, stated that cellphones are “such a pervasive and insistent part of daily life that the proverbial visitor from Mars might conclude they were an important feature of human anatomy.”
That is, they contain the most personal details of our lives and searching a phone is as invasive – if not more so -- as rummaging through someone’s home, which the Fourth Amendment protects against.
Roberts went on to say, “it is no exaggeration to say that many of the more than 90% of American adults who own a cell phone keep on their person a digital record of nearly every aspect of their lives—from the mundane to the intimate.”
The Supreme Court’s decision also has the potential to redefine what it means to have a reasonable expectation of mobile privacy and also represents a major blow to the security provided by mobile device management (MDM) solutions.
For one, the Supreme Court makes it pretty clear that mobile devices contain an exponential amount of personal information that would cause major distress if accessed without permission. We can also presume that the same amount of distress would occur if the device is wiped by an employer.
Typically, MDM policies require employees to download MDM software on their personal device. If the device is lost or stolen, an employer can send a command to wipe data from the device, ultimately deleting both corporate and personal data.
Given the decision that was just made, we would not be surprised if the discussion eventually shifted to the ethical and legal privacy concerns around MDM.
What’s your take? Does mobile device management cross the line when it comes to mobile privacy rights?