People of Iowa can soon use a mobile app instead of a physical drivers license. Sounds great, right?
Nowhere in the course of the Des Moines Register article are any concerns expressed about potential abuse by law enforcement. Perhaps that’s due to the sole source being Paul Trombino of the Dept. of Transportation — a government agency that, like many others, likely views law enforcement officers as “good guys” and defers to their judgment.
But what happens where you’re pulled over? The first thing an officer does is ask for license and registration and then takes both items back to his/her vehicle. How many people feel comfortable with allowing an officer to take and maintain control of their cellphone for an indefinite period of time?
Sure, we have a Supreme Court decision that states warrants must be obtained before cellphones can be searched, but how much of a deterrent is that? Let’s say the officer thinks you might be some sort of drug runner. Well, now he has both your cellphone and “exigent circumstances.” Even if the eventual search turns up nothing, he’s still had a chance to look through your cellphone and, quite possibly, your vehicle, all without a warrant. Iowa’s law enforcement officers already take advantage of the state’s asset forfeiture laws. There’s no reason to believe they won’t take advantage of additional opportunities to root around in the contents of someone’s cellphone. All it takes is a routine traffic stop.