Wednesday, April 20, 2011

ACLU: Michigan cops stealing drivers' phone data

The Michigan State Police have started using handheld machines called "extraction devices" to download personal information from motorists they pull over, even if they're not suspected of any crime. Naturally, the ACLU has a problem with this.

The devices, sold by a company called Cellebrite, can download text messages, photos, video, and even GPS data from most brands of cell phones. The handheld machines have various interfaces to work with different models and can even bypass security passwords and access some information.

The problem as the ACLU sees it, is that accessing a citizen's private phone information when there's no probable cause creates a violation of the Constitution's 4th Amendment, which protects us against unreasonable searches and seizures.

To that end, it's petitioning the MSP to turn over information about its use of the devices under the Freedom of Information Act. The MSP said it's happy to comply, that is, if the ACLU provides them with a processing fee in excess of $500,000. That's more than $100,000 for each of the five devices the MSP says it has in use. (read more)