Michigan Police Can Download Your Personal Data Against Your Will

Kevin Glass
Posted: Apr 20, 2011 5:58 PM
Well, this certainly is a horrifying story. Michigan State Police have technology that can download cell phone data wirelessly during a routine traffic stop. So if you're pulled over for rolling through a stop sign, the cops can now take everything on your cell phone against your will and without even telling you about it. This was uncovered and is now the subject of an ACLU request which, of course, the state police refuse to grant.  Via Duane Lester:

"Law enforcement officers are known, on occasion, to encourage citizens to cooperate if they have nothing to hide," ACLU staff attorney Mark P. Fancher wrote. "No less should be expected of law enforcement, and the Michigan State Police should be willing to assuage concerns that these powerful extraction devices are being used illegally by honoring our requests for cooperation and disclosure."

A US Department of Justice test of the CelleBrite UFED used by Michigan police found the device could grab all of the photos and video off of an iPhone within one-and-a-half minutes. The device works with 3000 different phone models and can even defeat password protections.

This has been described as a blatant violation of the prohibition on unreasonable search and seizure outlined in the Fourth Amendment. Beyond Clause 8, a project of the Michigan State University College of Law, has a long description of the worrisome ramifications of this new policy.

No, Michigan State Police Officer, you absolutely, without a doubt, positively, MAY NOT suck all the data out of my cell phone with your handy "extraction device." … The Fourth Amendment protects people from unreasonable searches and seizures by the government. Since we’ve got government actors in the form of state police officers, the Fourth Amendment applies. The first question is whether cell phone owners have a reasonable expectation of privacy in what is stored on their phone when they are pulled over. The reasonable expectation has long been defined by the Supreme Court in Katz. Justice Harlan explained that there is a reasonable expectation of privacy if 1) the subject of a search expected privacy, and 2) society generally agrees that such an expectation of privacy exists.

Drive safely, dear readers. Drive carefully. If not, Big Brother could have records of all your cell phone calls and, considering smartphone technology, your personal emails, photos, videos, and even highly secure data (the extraction devices have "password workaround technology."

This is an outrage, and the flagrant violation of personal privacy involved is reprehensible. The Michigan State Police have a lot of explaining and apologizing to do.