Is it possible authorities in the future might have to get a judge's warrant before searching a person's phone, email, bank and other personal electronic records?

The Washington State Supreme Court Tuesday heard arguments over the law that allows certain personal information to be obtained without a formal search warrant.

The judges had a lot of questions about this little-known law, that allows investigators to go through a person's phone, email, financial and other records without having to get a judge's permission, or without probable cause.

The reason this issue has surfaced, and is now being challenged, is because of the growth of modern digital technology. Because so many people are using the "cloud", or offsite storage for virtually all their personal information, opponents to the law say it's now no different than an actual physical search of a home or business.

According to KOMO-TV Seattle news:

"The justices heard arguments Tuesday over whether that's a violation of privacy protections in the state Constitution. A deputy prosecutor for King County argued that while a warrant would be required to search someone's home or their actual phone, probable cause is not required to obtain records held by third parties, such as phone records.

Several justices questioned that analysis. They noted that in many cases phone companies or cloud computing firms maintain virtually everything that's stored on a phone, making a records search very similar to a physical search."

Another reason for the challenge is the growing concern over citizens privacy in a time when story after story has surfaced about the government 'snooping' through on-line records and other personal data.

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