Speed Reads

know your rights

Do we need digital Miranda rights?

The Miranda warning is familiar to any American who has taken a high school civics class or watched an episode of any police procedural show. We know we have the right to remain silent — but what about our cell phones?

Since Miranda v. Arizona (1966), the Supreme Court case that established the basic caution against self-incrimination, technological advances mean the phones we all carry can offer far more damning evidence than much of what we might say. To adapt to that new legal reality, Cyrus Farivar at Ars Technica has proposed a "digital Miranda warning" crafted with the help of legal experts:

You have the right to remain silent. This right includes declining to provide information that does not require speaking, such as entering a passcode to unlock a digital device, like a smartphone. Anything that you say or do can be used against you. Any data retrieved from your device can also be used against you. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford one, one will be provided to you. Do you understand these rights as I have read them to you? [Ars Technica]

What this warning mentions — that too few may realize — is that law enforcement are required to get a warrant before searching any cell phone without its owner's permission during an arrest, thanks to 2014's Riley v. California, a unanimous Supreme Court ruling on the side of privacy.