Michigan State Police issued a letter clearing things up a bit. It says MSP only use the data extraction devices (DEDs) if a search warrant is obtained or if the person gives consent to have his or her phone searched. Apparently, the “department’s internal directive” says only MSP specialty teams can use the DEDs on criminal cases, meaning they don’t use them at routine traffic stops. The statement said that DEDs are commercially available and are used regularly to transmit data from one cell phone to another when customers upgrade their device.]
If you’re a Michigan citizen, you may want to be careful about what you have on your cell phone. Apparently Michigan State Police have been using a high-tech mobile forensics device that can pull information from over 3,000 types of cell phones in under only two minutes.
The information the device is able to export is basically everything from your smartphone, including call history, deleted phone data, text messages, contacts, images, and GPS data. And don’t think you’ll be safe if your phone is password-protected, the device can get around that too.
The police don’t even need a warrant to scan your phone. They can pull your information without your consent, and without any reasonable cause. The Cellebrite UFED scanner has been used by MSP since at least August 2008.
It would be one thing if these scanners are being used on people who were suspected of a crime, but police officers are scanning the phones of drivers stopped in minor traffic violations.
Of course, the American Civil Liberties Union wasn’t so happy about this, and, in turn, the organization evoked the Freedom of Information Act and demanded that state officials open up the data they collected so that the ACLU can figure out if the drivers have good cause for having their data copied.
The ACLU said that by using the scanners to get the information without the owners knowledge, the MSP is violating the drivers’ Fourth Amendment rights, which protects citizens from unreasonable searches. MSP has issued a response sayng that it’s willing to oblige and provide the information about what the device has captured, but that there “may be a processing fee to search for, retrieve, examine, and separate exempt material.” That little fee is actually $544,680, which the MSP said would cover the time and effort needed for retrieving the detailed records and compiling the data and documentation describing what the police were doing with the data extractors.
That leads us to wonder just how much information has been captured from driver’s cellphones. It must be a lot if the price is so high. Or maybe it’s a tactic to get the ACLU off their back because the MSP doesn’t want the ACLU to see the information.