Cell Phone Data – Latest 4th Amendment Infringement?

According to this article, Michigan police have been using devices that can extract a disturbing amount of information from your cell phone, including but not limited to:  GPS tracking, phone call/text history, files, images, applications, use of those applications, frequency of use, even potentially finding deleted information to recover.

The technology is called Cellebrite  using  “UFED.” This is not necessarily an exclusive police/law enforcement/forensics tool, either–it might just be illegal if you use it rather than them.

Now, the scenario was presented to me in a “…so a cop pulls you over for speeding, and asks for your cell phone.”  I imagine it isn’t quite that simple, nor fast.  I’m assuming this will not be normal traffic cop investigation procedure, but who is to say left unchecked, that it wouldn’t be?  Cell phones are amazing devices these days, capable of tons of information gathering and processing.  Like all data gathering and processing, to get to that data, it would require equally as powerful equipment, and depending on the hardware/software constraints of that equipment, would mean how fast a cop could get your phone, tap into it, download data, amass some kind of “reasonable cause,” and proceed to infringe your 4th Amendment rights.

It doesn’t sound like a terribly efficient use of our tax dollars, but again, these days, tax dollars are both shirking economically and being spent at an alarming rate.   It is something we have to keep in mind with potential freedom-damaging instances like this–especially when the Michigan department being accused of running rampant with this new technology offered to divulge the program for the sum of $544,680–why the exact amount, I’m not sure.

This could be a tinfoil-hat-wearing-scare, or a legitimate concern, but from my angle, nothing has happened yet.  We live in a world where politically, government-wise and especially police power, we don’t trust one another.  The Internet also makes it quite easy to spin yarns around “what if” scenarios from the earth broiling to a crisp because we club baby seals to Robocop becoming an oppressive reality.  Regardless, there will be some future instances of this becoming a bone of contention for some folks, notably right now the ACLU is going after them (probably one of the better things the ACLU is managing to look into) and they won’t be the last.

(photo courtesy

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