"Infosec Island received a Twitter message from the Michigan State Police regarding an article about the MSP using data extraction devices to collect information from cell phones of motorists detained for minor traffic infractions. The official statement from the MSP is as follows..." (see link above for MSP statement)
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Michigan State Police have been using data extraction devices to collect information from the cell phones of motorists detained for minor traffic infractions.
The mobile forensics units made by CelleBrite have the ability to download the data stored on more than 3000 models of cell phone, and are capable of defeating password protection.
"Complete extraction of existing, hidden, and deleted phone data, including call history, text messages, contacts, images, and geotags. 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," a CelleBrite brochure claims.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) first learned of the Michigan State Police program back in 2008, and filed official requests for documentation on the standards for using the CelleBrite devices.
The Michigan State Police replied they would be happy to release the information provided the ACLU pays a fee of more than $544,000 for the data, an amount the ACLU finds to be unreasonable.
"Law enforcement officers are known, on occasion, to encourage citizens to cooperate if they have nothing to hide. 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," ACLU staff attorney Mark P. Fancher wrote.
The concern is over whether the Michigan State Police are using the devices to bypass citizen's Fourth Amendment right to not be subjected to unreasonable search and seizure.
A minor traffic infraction may not present the probable cause needed to extract all of the data contained on a violator's mobile phone.
The ACLU wants to see documentation on how and why the device is employed during traffic stops to determine if the authorities are overstepping their legal authority to seize the information.
"With certain exceptions that do not apply here, a search cannot occur without a warrant in which a judicial officer determines that there is probable cause to believe that the search will yield evidence of criminal activity. 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," Fancher wrote.
The courts have been fairly liberal in their treatment of electronic search and seizure cases where the searches take place at the national border, but whether or not that liberal interpretation will carry over to traffic stops is still in question.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled in early April that electronic devices such as laptops and cell phones may be seized at the border, confiscated, searched, and even transported to a separate facility for forensic examination - all without need for a warrant demonstrating of due cause.