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Do Cops Need Warrants for Your Xbox Console?

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By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on February 29, 2012 7:05 AM

Police officers aren't just playing with the Xbox. No, cops also use Xbox consoles to catch criminals.

Today's gaming consoles are quite sophisticated. They include multi-gigabyte hard drives; connect to the Internet; and record audio and video.

They're a repository of information. And if you're not careful, your Xbox or PlayStation might just rat you out.

Surprised? You shouldn't be. Law enforcement has been pulling data from computers and cell phones for years. It's only natural that cops use the Xbox, too.

But what kind of data do gaming consoles hold? And do police need a warrant to access it?

The Xbox and other hard drive-based consoles can hold pictures, video and voice recordings, according to Ars Technica. They also contain activity logs that may betray an alibi.

Service providers, like the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live, also log the IP addresses of connected consoles. An IP address is associated with a unique location, possibly leading police to a specific person or place.

Police don't need a warrant to obtain IP-related data from networks -- they need only issue a subpoena. You, or the network, can fight the subpoena, but it may not work.

On the other hand, police need a warrant to obtain data located on an Xbox or gaming console. This is because law enforcement generally needs a warrant to confiscate property. Once police have that property, it can be "searched."

Ultimately, it's legal for cops to use Xbox and other gaming consoles in criminal investigations. So don't claim you were playing Call of Duty when you really weren't.

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