Digital Privacy Advocates See a Court Victory

Advocates of digital privacy were heartened by a recent Vermont Supreme Court decision allowing for restrictions on searches of electronic devices.  The story was covered in a recent Vermont Digger article:

The Vermont Supreme Court has ruled that some restrictions on searches of electronic devices by police are warranted, in a move advocates hailed as a major legal victory for digital privacy.

In December 2010, Burlington police detective Michael Warren began investigating a case of alleged identity theft. He requested a search warrant allowing access to “all computers or electronic media” in the suspect’s residence.

But Judge Michael Kupersmith imposed restrictions on the search to protect the suspect’s privacy, stipulating that police could only look for evidence about the crime in question, had to let someone beside their chief investigator do the search, and couldn’t prosecute the suspect for other crimes based on evidence from the devices.

State prosecutors appealed the restrictions, arguing that the conditions were unnecessary, impractical and unreasonable. The Vermont Supreme Court ruled Friday that the first two conditions could be imposed, to limit excessively invasive searches.

In the court’s decision, Justice John Dooley concluded that such conditions “serve legitimate privacy interests.”

This is one of those areas where advocates of limited government from both sides of the political aisle can take heart.