Apple iPhone, iPad become popular search warrant fodder

Say goodbye to the days of Columbo and Kojak. Police investigations these days are going high tech. A new survey of court records has found a trend that is anything but surprising but still interesting to look at – when it comes to confiscating electronic devices to gather information about suspects, computers are on the way out. Mobile devices are becoming much more lucrative and commonplace in solving mysteries.

The first time a search warrant was issued to examine the contents of an iPhone came within months of the device being released. The Secret Service was granted access to Joseph Siddon's phone after being caught in Buffalo with a bevy of fake IDs. According to a federal court database known as PACER, there as 50 cases where the defendant's name is listed as "iPhone," which means they are subject to being searched. At least five warrants have also been issued for iPads, the first of which came last year. These numbers do not include the significantly higher amount of cases at the state level.

This increasing trend is of course creating controversy for privacy advocates, but if a man's home can be scrubbed from top to bottom, his phone and tablet should be fair game too. The other issue, though, is the rise in technology. There was a recent case where a suspect's Android phone could not be broken into because the FBI was unable to crack the pattern unlock screen. The agency had to subpoena Google to get the phone owner's account credentials.

[via GigaOM]