It’s a scary scenario. You’re driving down the road and get pulled over by a state patrolman. After checking your license and registration, the officer asks for your cell phone, and then uses a futuristic machine to download all your data. In Michigan, it’s happening.
CNet.com reports the Michigan State Police (MSP) are using “extraction devices” to download personal information from motorists’ cell phones, including contacts, videos, GPS data, and pictures, “even if they’re not suspected of any crime.”
“The handheld machines have various interfaces to work with different models and can even bypass security passwords and access some information,” CNet says. The MSP have admitted to owning five of the devices.
The ACLU isn’t happy. In a press release last week, the group continued its mission to have the MSP hand over records indicating how the information is being used. For three years, the release says, the MSP has been giving the ACLU the run around. In fact, it’s now come to the point where the MSP is demanding over $500,000 in processing fees to fork over the data.
“We should not have to go on expensive fishing expeditions in order to discover whether police are violating the rights of residents they have resolved to protect and serve,” the release said.
“Complete extraction of existing, hidden, and deleted phone data, including call history, text messages, contacts, images, and geotags,” a brochure from device manufacturer Cellebrite says about the tool’s capabilities. “The Physical Analyzer allows visualization of both existing and deleted locations on Google Earth. In addition, location information from GPS devices and image geotags can be mapped on Google Maps.”
The ACLU also says the data extraction can take place “without the owner of the cellphone knowing.”
The group is now threatening to sue in order to get the data.
“This seems like a pretty obvious violation of the 4th Amendment prohibition of unreasonable searches and seizures,” Business Insider writes. “If a police officer can’t look into your trunk when you get pulled over, they certainly can’t download your photos and text messages.”