When can the police search your computer/phone?


If the cops come to your home with a warrant, can they prevent you from filming them while they search?
If the cops break something valuable, are they liable for the cost?
Can they question children in the home?


Question: Is there an app or other piece of software that will scrub your device for you if you enter a particular code? Alternatively, is there an piece of software a la Little Brother that will show a variant of your desktop and hard drive if you enter a particular password (not your normal password)?

An obvious example would be a laptop that had some Bitcoin keys on it in some form. If I didn’t trust law enforcement not to take them (and why would we, at this point) could I scrub the data if they forced me to ‘log in’ under a warrant or even at gunpoint?

For cellphones, there’s a beta of Darkmatter.

I am pretty sure such things exist for normal laptops. A workaround could be having several users on the machine, and one of them having access rights to the other one and run a “Victor the Cleaner” script on login.

Another approach could be relying on the net itself, and have just a well-secured machine with nothing much on it and having everything on a server in a friendly jurisdiction, accessible over some sort of web app or remote desktop or so. That way the cops cannot get much from the hardware they can get hands on. It’s however a trade of one can of worms for another, as hosted machines have their own problems, and you are paying for no local storage with network-related issues.

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Can they? Can is a loaded word. Sometimes might makes right.

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Store all your facts in a cloud somewhere, encrypted. Use a laptop with no drive. Boot from a USB drive that is write-protected. Know the one URL that stores all your bookmarks. Nothing is left on the computer as evidence. Nothing is on the USB drive except an OS. Anything that points to the evidence lives in your head, and the 4th Amendment hasn’t been overturned there yet. I suppose you’d need proxies and VPNs and TOR to keep your connection to the world from being snooped. I think it sounds like a solid plan otherwise.

They can no-knock serve a warrant and shoot your kid without fear of punishment, no need to question one.

I only have experience of the second and the answer is no.

Longer story - I was renting my condo in NJ to a person who turned out to be a drug abuser and the police came looking for a boyfriend who was not there at the time. They kicked in the door of the condo, ransacked the place and then left without notifying me or taking any effort to secure the premises. A neighbor called me and I had to pay almost a thousand dollars to have people come out in the middle of the night to replace the door, locks, frame, etc.

I contacted Asbury Park police who invited me to submit a claim, which they then ignored. I investigated further action, but was advised that might be a bad idea to get on the wrong side of small town cops.

As far as I know they did not have a warrant (none was ever shown to me), caused substantial damage, made no attempts to secure the wide open doors, then left and refused to pay for the damage. And people wonder why even white, middle-class people don’t trust or respect the police any more.


Obviously I meant legally…

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