Oregon Attorney's Fight Over Cell Phone Privacy Yields Win in US Supreme Court

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Portland attorney Bronson James, author of the amicus brief for the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers in Riley v. California, comments on today's landmark privacy ruling by the United States Supreme Court.

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No other technology is so integrated into our private lives and identity as our cellphones.

Bronson James, an attorney in Portland, Oregon, has been litigating cell phone privacy issues for the past decade. He brought the issue before the Oregon Court of Appeals and the Oregon Supreme Court back in 2010 in State v. Nix. The Oregon courts did not agree with his assessment of the Fourth Amendment's protections for cellphones. Today, the United States Supreme Court settled the matter.

Mr. James authored the amicus brief for the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers in Riley v. California. In that opinion issued today, the United States Supreme Court announced sweeping privacy protections for cell phones.

"It's a stunning win for privacy rights," says Mr. James. "Our position was based on two factors, the capacity of modern phones, coupled with their profoundly unique sociological use. No other technology is so integrated into our private lives and identity as our cellphones. I'm so pleased the Court recognized the truth in those arguments, and afforded people the privacy from governmental intrusion that was deserved."

What does this decision by the United States Supreme Court mean for digital rights? According to Mr. James, this is just the beginning. "Although this is a fantastic opinion, and provides the best foundation going forward, this is the start of litigation on cellphones, not the end." says James. "Expect to see cases soon on whether police can compel people to unlock their phones, or reveal passwords. And expect the courts to wrestle with how to frame warrants for data, and in particular how long innocent data can remain on law enforcement servers."

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Bronson James