Michigan police being questioned for extracting smartphone data

cellebriteGetting pulled over is bad enough without having to worry about the last text message you sent. The ACLU is attempting to investigate Michigan police officers’ use of a device that extracts information from the smartphones of drivers they’ve pulled over.

On April 13, the ACLU of Michigan revealed it has been seeking information from authorities regarding the use of this device and that officials have yet to cooperate with this request. ACLU of Michigan Racial Justice Project staff attorney Mark P. Francher explains the organization’s concern: “Through these many requests for information we have tried to establish whether these devices are being used legally. It’s telling that Michigan State Police would rather play this stalling game than respect the public’s right to know.”

The civil rights groups claims that state police have had these devices for years, and that they can download information stored on a smartphone in a matter of minutes without the owner’s knowledge. The ACLU rightly points out that this crosses into searching through a citizen’s personal data without consent, warrant, and possibly based on little more than a traffic violation. There is particular concern that the devices are being implemented primarily against minorities.

So what precisely can these data-extractors pick up? A frighteningly wide array of information: “contacts, text messages, deleted text messages, call history, pictures, audio and video recordings, phone details including the phone number and complete memory file dumps on some handsets.”

The device in question is the Cellebrite UFED Physical Pro, “a high-end, all-in-one solution for logical and physical extraction.” The Cellebrite is able to procure iPhone media content in less than two minutes, and can also pull geotags as well as Google Earth locations – even those that have been deleted. It’s an inarguably powerful tool, and one that could make a police officer’s job easier and highly controversial. There are a slew of issues, aside to that whole invasion of privacy thing here: There’s the possibility of seemingly suspicious information being misconstrued, or past illegal activity being added to a list of charges. And, of course, there’s the very distinct possibility that some embarrassing photos or text messages will be seen by eyes other than yours and their intended’s, and while that won’t land you in jail (hopefully…) it’s less than ideal.

Of course, used with restriction, the Cellebrite has its benefits. Which is why it seems suspect the Michigan police are failing to find some sort of common ground between privacy rights and the use of this device. A simple “And now if you submit to it I’m going to scan your cellphone” is literally all officers would have to do. Sure, plenty of people are going to respond with “like hell you are” but that’s called the Fourth Amendment.

The authorities have said they will give up full disclosure to the ACLU, but only provided the organization pays them a processing fee of $544,680. Seem steep? The ACLU thinks so. Either it’s been highly inflated to keep the organization at bay for awhile, or the Michigan State Police have extracted a shocking amount of data from citizens.

Emerging Tech

Here’s how Facebook taught its Portal A.I. to think like a Hollywood filmmaker

When Facebook introduced its Portal screen-enhanced smart speakers, it wanted to find a way to make video chat as intimate as sitting down for a conversation with a friend. Here's how it did it.
Smart Home

OK Google, what else can you do? The best tips and tricks for Google Home

The Home functions in a similar fashion to its main competitor, the Amazon Echo, but has the added benefit of select Google services. Here are few tips to help you make the most of the newfangled device.

Having problems with your Xbox One console? We have the solutions

The Xbox One has evolved over the years, but so have its problems. Thankfully, we have solutions for some of the console's most enduring problems, whether you're experiencing issues with connectivity or your discs.
Smart Home

Consumer groups call out retailers in a bid for better IoT security

Consumer groups posted a "Dear retailer" letter on February 12 that called out Walmart, Best Buy, Amazon, and Target, shaming the companies for selling insecure smart home devices.

Where to buy the Samsung Galaxy S10, S10 Plus, and S10e in the U.K.

The Samsung Galaxy S10, S10 Plus, and S10e have all been officially announced and can be pre-ordered right now, with deliveries expected on March 8. If you're in the U.K., this is where you need to go to buy one.

Sony partnership with Light aims to take smartphone photography to new heights

Smartphone photography is in its ascendancy, and a new partnership between Light and Sony hopes to lift it to new heights through the development of multi-image sensor solutions for smartphones. We spoke to Light to find out more.

Samsung says it has set new standard for mobile tech with the 2019 Galaxy range

Samsung launched a host of new products on February 20, with prices ranging from just $35, all the way up to nearly $2,000. This was not by chance, and the company believes it has something for everyone in 2019.

Samsung Galaxy S10 vs. Google Pixel 3: Can Samsung beat the stock Android king?

The Samsung Galaxy S10 is here, offering modern specs, a beautifully high-resolution display, and an edge-to-edge design with a small cutout in the display for the front-facing camera. But can the phone take out the Google Pixel 3?

Protect your iPhone or iPad with the IPVanish VPN, on sale through February

One of our favorite virtual private networks for iPhones and iPads, IPVanish, is now offering a huge discount on its two-year subscription as part of its 7th-birthday promotion. Read on to find out more about how this VPN works and how you…

Verizon is launching real standards-based 5G in 30 cities in 2019

Verizon is in the midst of a massive 5G rollout. In addition to fixed 5G service, it will also begin deploying mobile 5G in the coming months. Here's everything you need to know about Verizon's 5G network and when it will be in your town.

Stay fit and save cash with our top 10 affordable Fitbit alternatives

As much as we love Fitbits, they're rather expensive. If all you want is a simple activity tracker, however, then check out these great cheap Fitbit alternatives. With offerings from brands like Garmin, you don't need to pay full price.

Samsung Galaxy S10e vs. OnePlus 6T: Can the Flagship Killer survive?

The Samsung Galaxy S10e is the new affordable flagship on the block, but at $750, it's $200 more than the OnePlus 6T. Does the Flagship Killer stand a chance against the new generation of flagship devices? Let's take a closer look.

Make some time for the best smartwatch deals for February 2019

Smartwatches make your life easier by sending alerts right on your wrist. Many also provide fitness-tracking features. So if you're ready to take the plunge into wearables and want to save money, read on for the best smartwatch deals.
Product Review

Samsung’s Galaxy Buds are a brilliant combination of value and comfort

With six hours of battery life, an extremely comfortable fit, sweatproofing, and a very palatable price tag, Samsung’s Galaxy Buds are putting all other true wireless earbuds on notice.