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Michigan ACLU Questions Troopers' Use of Cellphone Data Extractors

April 18, 2011  | 


Cellebrite's UFED standard is a mobile forensic device that extracts data from 95% of cellular phones on the market today, according to the company. Photo via Cellebrite.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan wants more information about how Michigan State Police troopers are using devices known as cellular data extractors to retrieve information from a citizen's mobile device during a traffic stop without their consent.

In an April 13 letter to Col. Kriste Etue, director of the state agency, the civil liberties union expressed its concern that the devices may violate search-and-seizure rights.

"The Fourth Amendment protects citizens from unreasonable searches," according to the ACLU's letter. "A device that allows immediate, surreptitious intrusion into private data creates enormous risks that troopers will ignore these requirements to the detriment of the constitutional rights of persons whose cell phones are searched."

The state police acquired several of Cellebrite's UFED devices that extract data such as phonebook, pictures, videos, text messages, call logs, ESN, and IMEI information. The data is then collected into reports for research and evidence that can be used in the courtroom.

The union has filed a federal records request under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for more information about how troopers are using the devices.

In a brief response, a spokeswoman with the Michigan State Police told PoliceMag.com the agency is currently reviewing the ACLU's public records request.

"The Michigan State Police will provide information in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)," Tiffany Brown of the MSP's Public Affairs Section wrote in an e-mail. "As with any FOI request, under the statute, there may be a processing fee to search for, retrieve, review, examine, and separate exempt material, if any."

Tags: Michigan State Police, ACLU Activism, Search and Seizure, Fourth Amendment, Cellebrite, Cell Phones

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Comments (10)

Displaying 1 - 10 of 10

Randy @ 4/18/2011 5:25 PM

I hope to god this is for something specific and the troopers are not just taking this information right out of my phone on a traffic stop???

Scott @ 4/18/2011 6:45 PM

I am all for law and order but this is way over the line if used without consent or a warrant. If the MSP need evidence they can get it using good old fashioned police work, not by invading the privacy of citizens.

Ranger04 @ 4/18/2011 8:04 PM

I never thought that I would be in agreement with the ACLU, but I tend think this is over stepping the line of the 4th Amendment.

John Tate (New Mex.) @ 4/19/2011 5:44 AM

This is an important issue about which this article contributes little except careless suggestions of MSP misconduct. What type of traffic stops? Burned out tail light? DWI? HIDTA arrests? This type of inflammatory "bullet news" is not up to the standards appropriate for Police Magazine.

M.Conner @ 4/19/2011 7:10 AM

This issue is blown way out of preportion.

WebEdPaul @ 4/19/2011 10:41 AM

@John Tate. Thanks for the comment. We just added a statement from the MSP, who is not saying much at this point. We'll stay on this story, because we agree that it's an important topic.

Pat @ 4/19/2011 10:56 AM

CelleBrite does not "surreptitously" take information out of a phone. It has to be physically connected (or set up via bluetooth) to get data.

Kurt @ 4/19/2011 4:04 PM

My understanding is that once a person is arrested for the transportation of drugs, and we are talking large amounts, is when they use the device. Never on routine traffic stops.

Naomi @ 4/20/2011 7:12 AM

This is a poorly written article with scant abstractions to how MSP utizlie Cellebrite on traffic stops. It does nothing to clarify how and when this device is actually used. It leads the reader to believe that it is done on every traffic stop when this may not be the case? This is the type of carelessly written aricle I would typically see in a newspaper, not something where all the facts and information should reasonably presented in a police magazine.

WebEdPaul @ 4/20/2011 9:40 AM

@Naomi The MSP has not released any info about how they're using it. Read the story again, and you'll see they say they'll respond to the open records request. The declined to tell us when we asked them. Unfortunately there's just not a lot of information out there now. We'll keep you posted when we know more.

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