There is simply no way around it: our personal data exists online, and it’s all too easy for everything from our search history to our health records to become subject to heightened surveillance. As new information comes out, technology is released, and court cases are decided, it’s bound to only become a murkier subject.

One of the emerging gray areas lies in the intersection between privacy and law enforcement. From a certain perspective, it’s only natural that law enforcement would put technology to use when investigating a crime, especially since digital evidence can be the key to cracking a case. But on the flip side, where do we draw the line? 

Data Breaches Reveal Deeper Issues

In a now-infamous data breach, malevolent hackers exploited a tactic that law enforcement officials sometimes employ to get tech companies to release data: they issued an “emergency” legal demand that tech companies hand over information such as location and subscriber details. The companies, assuming the request was legitimate, obliged. Obviously, hackers having our information is cause for concern and was an alarming situation for those involved. 

But perhaps more importantly, it’s worth considering that no news article would have been released had it been real law enforcement acquiring our personal data. It’s an accepted facet of the job, nothing at all newsworthy. How should we the people feel about the potentially sinister undertones? According to an article published by The Guardian, “police, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice), the FBI and other law enforcement agencies can get your user data directly from tech companies through various forms of legal requests, without having to search your device. Sometimes, they can get it just by asking for it.”

Law Enforcement's Access to Data in America

Law Enforcement Loopholes

Your data could be at risk through many routes, of course. But it is certainly ironic that one of them is through the government systems supposedly in place to protect us. Keyword search warrants, geofence warrants, and administrative subpoenas are all perfectly legal methods of collecting your information. That information could be anything from your location to your social media activity. 

Law enforcement agencies can also legally contract with companies whose goal is to survey your data and feed it into their own algorithms. For example, one of these surveillance companies, Clearview AI, was the subject of a New York Times article on “The Secretive Company That Might End Privacy as We Know It.” Let’s just hope that the headline is a slight exaggeration.

A Current Concern

Certain instances of law enforcement officials pushing the boundaries of privacy are of specific import today. Data privacy is particularly important for people of color and their communities. According to, surveillance and data collection have disproportionately affected communities of color under both past and current circumstances and political regimes. Stereotyping, misinformation, and racial profiling all play a role in the imbalance. 

Another concern involves women attempting to receive an abortion in states where the medical procedure is now illegal. The landmark decision in the recent Supreme Court case Dobbs v. Jackson undid their previous decision in Roe v. Wade, which allowed women nationwide to have a legal abortion. Now, abortion laws are left up to the states, many of which have deemed it illegal at various stages. Women in those states might find their medical history and health records suddenly subject to increased scrutiny. Thus, they must tread extremely carefully if considering procuring an (illegal) abortion.  

Get Ahead of the Curve with a CSU Degree

Law enforcement access to private information is an increasingly important topic. It doesn’t help that there’s a major talent gap in experts who can advise companies on cooperating with these demands. Professionals with a comprehensive understanding of both the law and the technological landscape are few and far between, meaning they’re in high demand when it comes time to hire. If you want to earn the skills companies are currently seeking, look no further than an innovative online Master of Legal Studies (MLS) in Cybersecurity and Data Privacy from Cleveland State University.

We recognize that you’re probably looking to apply your studies to a lucrative, fulfilling career. With that in mind, we designed the MLS with a focus on relevant, real-world experience. The program benefits students who must understand the legal and business risks posed by cybersecurity and data privacy in order to successfully enter and thrive in ever-evolving fields. 

We also recognize that you’re probably very busy with everything else going on in your life, from personal to professional responsibilities, so our degree is purposefully asynchronous, part-time, and fully online. Interested in this impactful degree? Schedule a time to connect with our Director of Graduate Studies and Professional Development, Julie DiBiaso.