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Michigan police could gather data from cellphones during traffic stops in minutes

Posted by Bradley Wint on 20/04/2011

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is concerned about Michigan police being able to gather geographical and personal data from cellphones during routing traffic stops.

Michigan police obtained a device called a CelleBrite UFED back in 2008, which allows for vasts about of data to be gathered from cellphones in a matter of just a few minutes. This could easily take place during a traffic stop, and even though its use it only allowable via a warrant, the ACLU is afraid that the police can use it illegally when a warrant is not issued. They requested that law enforcement authority in the area show them a sample of the data collected, but the officials asked that the group pay $544,680 in exchange for the data.

In the name of transparency, they asked for the law officials to detail a number of factors such as when the devices were obtained, how much they cost in total and how these devices are used. Also they wanted to know if officers informed drivers about being scanned and whether or not they obtained data with or without a warrant.

When the ACLU tested the CelleBrite UFED device, they were shocked as to how much data could be pulled from it. For example, they were able to download call histories, text messages, photos, videos, contact information, browsing history, cookies and bookmarks, SIM data, and GPS locations on Google Earth. They were also able to gather Geotag information which could be plotted on Google Maps. The device not only could pull currently stored data, but was also able to pull up data that was deleted (which proves the point that data is never entirely deleted even when it says it is). What about those password protected sections? The unit easily bypasses those as well. In the tests, iPhones and iPads were easily broken into as well.

Interestingly enough, users could be fined if they were found to have been talking or texting on their cells while on the move, but since Michigan laws don’t allow for that, they are being let off the hook.

The ACLU states that the law enforcement agency’s actions go against the 4th amendment and they are now suing the Department of Homeland Security for such actions. Even though the police are saying that drivers should have no issues with their phones being scanned on the grounds that they should have nothing to hide, the ACLU is afraid officers could use that data for other reasons.


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  • Wildfyre99

    If they figure I have nothing to hide then why are they snooping? They have no right to this data unless they have a reasonable suspicion that I have committed a specific crime.

    Further since the data cannot be examined on the spot, what is to protect you from the cops later leaking the information during or after their review (back at the station)?

  • Cdtoe-1809

    It’s very noticeable that the privacy of the people are gradually being taken from them, and the reason is simple, war on terror. No one should have the right to enter a person’s house or scan his phone if there’s no evidence that he could be involved in a criminal activity. A lot of people need to wake up from their sleep and defend their simple and clear rights; privacy, privacy, privacy, otherwise I wouldn’t be surprised if at a point of time in the future, people would be forced to let security agencies to put cameras in their houses, so that they can always see and watch what you are doing, speaking, planning or whatever, even if your aren’t under suspicion.

    Electronic devices were meant to be a way to store private information, and now they are a threat to someone’s privacy. If these plans to steal privacy are going to get bigger and smarter, then you would need to leave all these electronics if you want your privacy, unless if you know how to encrypt the data in your cell phone, and make it well-guarded.

  • Anonymous

    “Even though the police are saying that drivers should have no issues with their phones being scanned on the grounds that they should have nothing to hide”

    That’s what they always say when they want to violate the 4th. It’s still a weak excuse.

  • Bradley Wint

    Weak Excuse? It should not be an excuse AT ALL! Violating personal space for the fun of it has no merit in my books

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