Sarah Wilson

First Page



In 2012, the FBI served a search warrant on Google when a suspect––a user of Google’s phone services––refused to answer any questions about his cellphone, or provide the agents with the password to unlock it. The search warrant compelled Google to hand over the password information and other identifying information for the cellphone (account log-in, password reset, and manufacturer default code), which Google refused to do. Google’s refusal implicates a host of issues regarding our current understanding of privacy and self-incrimination protections and concerns legal scholars with what will happen to these doctrines if the government can simply bypass an individual and obtain passwords from a third party. This Article only begins to scratch the surface of this complex debate by analyzing the extent to which the Fourth and Fifth Amendments protect individuals when the government forces third parties to hand over their passwords, and will illustrate why these amendments do not adequately protect individuals in these situations. With constantly evolving technology and almost daily reports of the government accessing electronic communications and communication records, the time is ripe for Congress to legislate the issue of the government compelling private information, such as passwords, from third parties.

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