Target: Judge Steven C. Frucci, Virginia Second Judicial Circuit
Goal: Praise decision to protect citizens from being forced by police to divulge pass codes to electronic devices
A judge has ruled that a defendant may not be compelled to give up passwords to their mobile devices to law enforcement during investigations. According to the judge, the pass codes are protected by the Fifth Amendment, which guards against forced self-incrimination. The ruling does not extend to fingerprint-locked devices, which do not require a defendant to divulge personal knowledge. This decision sets a precedent for the constitutional protection of data.
As society has entered the digital age, constitutional protection for privacy has fallen behind. Most wireless and internet communications remain unprotected, unlike traditional mail and wired telephone calls. Personal data on electronic devices can be subject to tracking and surveillance on a massive scale, such as the use of the “stingray,” a device used by law enforcement to find a user’s location.
Presently, judges and lawmakers around the world are beginning to consider the implications of law enforcement’s easy access to citizens’ devices. The state of Missouri put electronic communications and data under state constitutional privacy protection. Canada ruled that police were not allowed to search devices with passwords, and the United States Supreme Court voted unanimously to require that police seek a warrant before searching mobile devices.
When the American forefathers wrote a guarantee of personal privacy in the constitution, they could not have fathomed the technological advances that led to the digital age. Now, as citizens, it is our duty to ensure that the intentions of the constitution are being heeded. Sign the petition below to praise the judge’s ruling, which is a huge victory for the protection of personal information on mobile devices.
Dear Judge Steven C. Frucci,
In a recent hearing, it was decided that civilians may not be forced to give up passwords to electronic devices by law enforcement. Since pass codes are considered personal knowledge, they fall under the protection of the Fifth Amendment, which guards against self incrimination.
Many courts have failed to uphold constitutional rights when it comes to electronic devices and wireless or online communications. It is refreshing to see a judge working to ensure that the intentions of the American forefathers are being upheld in modern times. We, the undersigned, commend your decision, which will protect the privacy of millions of Americans.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Samantha Celera via Flickr Creative Commons