Phone that can see through walls: You’re gonna need a warrant for that…

If the Cat S60 smartphone were to star in a Hollywood movie it would play the role of the rugged, unconventional superhero. Its superpower is not shooting spider webs from its USB ports, but rather infrared heat mapping.

This rough-and-tumble phone’s major selling point is a Flir thermal imaging camera, which can visualise heat as a colourful map, taking measurements from up to 30 metres (100 feet) away. You can use it for a huge number of tasks, from detecting heat loss around windows and doors to identifying overheating circuitry, or just seeing in the dark.Thermal Phone

Flir imagines that others, including emergency first responders and outdoor enthusiasts, may also find uses for the phone. If police come across an abandoned car, for example, they can use the thermal imaging camera to determine whether the engine or seats are still warm, or whether there’s a body anywhere in the vicinity.

And police may own these phones and be tempted to use them for investigative purposes, but hold on a minute.  This issue has already been addressed by the Unites States Supreme Court in Kyllov. v. United States  533 U.S. 27 (2001), held that the use of a thermal imaging, or FLIR, device from a public vantage point to monitor the radiation of heat from a person’s home was a “search” within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment, and thus required a warrant.  You would probably need one to scan a car, but not an open field.


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