How safe are my electronic communications and electronic devices use from view by law enforcement (i.e., emails, texting, social media accounts, web browsing, and other web or mobile-based communications)?
Your use of electronic devices and communications generally implicate your rights under the Fourth Amendment ‘s Search and Seizure rule of the U.S. Constitution. Therefore, similar to how the Fourth Amendment protects you from warrantless searches of your home or person, law enforcement is required to obtain a search warrant from a court in order to surveil or otherwise investigate your electronic device use and electronic communications.
Once law enforcement obtains a search warrant, where they must show to a court legally sufficient information to justify its issuance, they have a limited amount of time to “search” the particular device or account. Usually, they are at the mercy of the particular settings and policies of the company that created the electronic media, including settings already put in pace regarding data backup, frequency, and storage of deleted data. However, these warrants generally allow law enforcement to use all necessary means to bypass these features, and often law enforcement succeeds in doing so.
Evidence that’s obtained from your personal electronic devices and electronic communications can be fatal to your interests in a criminal investigation or case, so it is important to keep in mind that your privacy can be compromised at any time if government officials and law enforcement believe there are reasonable grounds to do so.