ACLU Concerned With Michigan Police Using Mobile Phone Scanners


The Michigan Police Department have a new device at their disposal and its being billed as a “mobile forensics tool.” The device allows an officer to bypass all security on a mobile phone and obtain private information such as call records, pictures, text messages and so on. If used as intended, this device could be a great help at aiding an investigation of a kidnapping or homicide (like the location of a victim’s last known where-abouts).

Now, this invasion of privacy has attracted the attention of the ACLU.  Their main concern is with the devices being used on small, everyday traffic stops and violations. Although, there’s no indication of any wrong doing or abuse, I can see how its something worth looking into.

The Michigan police department have yet to release to the public information regarding the program but are asking for half a million dollars to disclose such info. If I was a Michigan resident, I would feel entitled to knowing what my rights are regarding this new technology being used in an unreasonable search of my phone.

What I would really like to know is how you, a tax payer, would feel about your police department using devices like these and not disclosing how the information is being used, enforced and kept secured? Does the existence of such a device make you feel more secure in your government? Or do you see this as yet another way Big Brother can keep an eye on you?

[Via TheNewsPaper]

Chris Chavez
I've been obsessed with consumer technology for about as long as I can remember, be it video games, photography, or mobile devices. If you can plug it in, I have to own it. Preparing for the day when Android finally becomes self-aware and I get to welcome our new robot overlords.

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  1. whole device encryption ftw!

    1. The Gingerbread update for the Droid X allows full device and SD card encryption. That was the 1 feature I missed from my Blackberry days. I’m not sure if it’s a Motorola thing or if it’s a standard part of Gingerbread. If it’s not standard it needs to be to stop these jack booted thugs.

      1. Encrypting my Droid X as I type this.

        1. Whole device encryption does nothing to help you here. It will keep someone from pulling the SDCard out and reading it in a laptop or in situations where you stomped on the phone and they are trying to recover data directly from the internal ROM (and really even then it only slows them down, not prevents them).

          The device injects itself into the bootstrapping process and then essentially acts as a sniffer against the native OS. Since the native OS decrypts and displays your data on the fly, the device can read your encrypted data just fine.

  2. “The Michigan police department have yet to release to the public information regarding the program but are asking for half a million dollars to disclose such info.”

    So, they have this device, but they refuse to give the public information about it unless the police department gets $500,000.00?

    Isn’t that kind of illegal?

    1. Hahaha, that was my first thought too! “We’ve got the information, now give us the money or you’ll never see it again!” lol :P

  3. I can’t find any info on this at the ACLU website. Where are you getting your information? Link to a source?

    1. Sorry, updated post with source info.

  4. The ACLU should be sued into non existence

    1. If I didn’t know any better I’d swear this is something Sheriff Joke Arpaio here in Phoenix would do.

      The device itself could be a big help to law enforcement, but left in the hands of mostly technically challenged Rambos roaming the streets with a badge, I’d be very leery.

    2. You need to get down on your knees and kiss the hind quarters of the ACLU. They have done more, since 1920, to insure that your rights aren’t violated than almost any other entity in this country.

  5. @Kevin Local 4 News in Detroit ran a piece on this the other day


  6. +1 for you Christopher for postng this!
    just read it on drudge

  7. Kind of looks like they scavenged a few Game Boys to make this thing.

  8. This is so cops can read all the sext messages and post them on Facebook

  9. This is completely wrong, and if people don’t have an issue with the police using this ‘search’ capability without a warrant, and your knowledge, it is a serious breach of your rights.

    But some who have no critical thinking skills, or understanding of the intangible fabric of American freedoms, say “…if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to worry about…”

    If no standards are in place, all sorts of lawsuits will come about when a private text or picture is posted on the net…yay for more deadlock in our courts, and wasting of taxpayer money.

    This stinks all the way around

    1. So far, there hasn’t been a report of wrong doing, just the buzz that comes with people worried about possible wrong doing.

      As the source states, they are using these in situations in which someone has given consent, or already happens to be involved in a situation where the officer can search without a warrant.

    2. …if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to worry about…

      1. Hahah lug nut. Only sheep need shepherds!! We dont need to be controlled

        1. Exactly! I’m not a sheep, so I don’t need a shepherd. This is why I don’t fear this device. However, most people are sheep and do need shepherds. It’s very sad.

          1. It’s not just criminal information that I have a right to protect.

      2. I have nothing to hide, but it’s an invasion of my privacy and illegal in my opinion. Just saying if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to worry about is fucking retarded.

      3. Oh, by the way… so by this example, the POLICE in that same state should allow citizens there to PHOTOGRAPH them while on duty. Something that’ll land you in jail there with MALICIOUS prosecution to boot as the DA is in bed with the LEO’s… check your fire!

    3. > it is a serious breach of your rights.

      Friend, you use such strange and unfamiliar language. What are these ‘rights’ you speak of?

  10. another way for douches to be douches, I just hope they use their powers for good.

  11. This would still require a warrant. Its just a field tool, for when time is short for whatever reason, or even a preliminary scan. They won’t be able to just use this whenever they pull you over, and if your phone is already subject to search, it doesn’t matter at that point what information they take from your device as long as its within the appropriate scope of the search.

    And fyi, there are tons of mobile forensics tools like this… and this one isn’t even the best one, your rights don’t change just because they have a new toy.

    You can put a hex editor on a USB dongle and call it a mobile forensics tool.

    (edit: this doesn’t gather any more data than you could just rooting your device and exporting databases)

    “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,”

    1. Right now, there’s no explicit statutory law or legal precedent (federal) that prohibits using this on a whim.

      1. And there shouldn’t be. People should stop being criminals and we wouldn’t need such items.

        1. You’re a fucking criminal. Get your head out of the damn clouds and enlighten yourself with some realism. Get conscious you sad person

          1. So, because I have nothing to hide and would gladly allow the police access to my phone to prove my innocence, I’m now labeled a criminal. Please explain how this makes any sense! And as far as having my head in the clouds and needing to “enlighten myself with some realism”, are you fucking kidding me? How stupid are you? Just as Gwilks has pointed out, if my child was abducted and their whereabouts were listed on some idiots phone, you better damn well believe that I would want them to have the ability to quickly access the information on the phone. Anyone who feels differently has shit to hide and as far as I’m concerned can eat shit because it’s people like you that make this world a shitty place to live.

            However, it is obvious to me that the difference between you and I is that I’m okay with something like this because I feel as though it will offer me further protection by the police that are are, in fact, meant to protect and serve ME, whereas you are against it because you are the type of person that the police are protecting me from. I’m not worried about the device because I know that the police would never need or want to use this on me. My guess is they would want to use it on you because you seem like the type of person that doesn’t know how to treat others respect. Try being kind to the police and I’m sure that you will find that they are not actually out to get you, they are here to help. And that’s the truth; that’s realism.

          2. LOL, If you kept your eyes on your children you wouldn’t have to worry about your cousin chris or uncle buck abducting your child. And would you let your next door neighbour access your telephone without your consent? Remember, cops are your next door neighbours also….

          3. I bet you already have a couple of camera’s in your bathroom right? I mean, you have nothing to hide!

          4. @think about it: “If you kept your eyes on your children…” WOW! You cannot be serious? You obviously have never had any children. I don’t think playing “Mother Hen” is the proper way to raise kids. But please, enlighten me. Also, you have missed my point. I’m not a criminal, therefore, the police would never want or need to access my phone. And yes, the police are our neighbors, but so are criminals, so are victims, and so is every other person in the world. If my next door neighbor had a badge and he needed access to my phone to solve an investigation, he wouldn’t need a device like this because I would contribute to the betterment of my society by willingly handing over anything that could help.

            @Daniel Bos: “…camera’s in your bathroom…” How is reading the info on my phone comparable to cameras in my bathroom? If the police pat someone down and find a piece of paper that proves them guilty of a crime or assists the police in an investigation or helps rescue a victim in need, should this info be discarded because it isn’t fair to the criminal?

          5. Nice trolling…

          6. Just remember, it only starts with one cop that thinks he is above the law to make you a criminal. Remember that just because you don’t want everyone in the world having access to your entire life, DOES NOT MAKE YOU A CRIMINAL. You are OK with this because you actually think things like this make you safer. Get a clue. Cops can’t protect you. This is just more Big Brother, bigger government. There is such a thing as the constitution in the country that gives us rights!

        2. We do not all automatically come under suspicion, just because we have a phone. Citizens have a right to a reasonable expectation of privacy.

        3. Well… what came first, the chicken or the egg?

          IF the LEO’s had performed their job appropriately, there would be no need for such helpful tools. A GOOD investigator would not need to take you in and while suspicious of your activities or contacts, calls, etc., hook you up to SNOOP and see if there is something they could use to hold you and THEN build a case. In the REAL world, they would already have all the information they need to go to a judge and obtain a warrant and LISTEN to everything you say and FOLLOW you to know everywhere you go and what you do. This tool sorry is exactly as it appears, a SNOOPING device to FISH for something they don’t have.


      2. Yeah there is, its a search… its called the constitution. This is definitely covered by 4th Amendment, and any officer who uses this device is either getting your consent when you hand him the phone or has reason ahead of time that precludes a warrant.

        This device, or devices like it are in use -everywhere-. Its not being used on traffic stops, and until someone can show me repeated cases in which people were pulled over and searched illegally in this manner then it will continue to not be true.

        Its a forensics device, and any search that was not consented to or otherwise reasonably performed would be a violation of 4th and get thrown out in court, as would any evidence that came from a search that was performed illegally.

    2. Actually this type of activity DOESN’T require a warrant thanks to the Patriot Act Bush signed into law after 9/11. I would suggest everyone read this thing. We have absolutely NO freedoms left but your average JNoe has no clue!

      1. Obama has extended the Patriot Act so don’t forget to mention him too.

      2. Patriot act doesn’t cover this directly. Still a 4th amendment without exigent circumstances.

  12. Let someone abduct your child or commit some crime with your family involved and picture yourself in the police dept. Saying something like this “well don’t you have some way to check her phone I know she had it!!! ” then see what your feelings would be.

    1. Exactly! These idiots are all just worried about the police finding their kiddie porn on their phones. They are totally missing the point of this device.

      1. Yeah, let’s proactively execute anyone suspected of any crime, that’ll make the world safer!

        1. “Execute”?!?!?! I’m sorry, since when was investigation considered execution?

          1. Since when does investigation prevent crime?? If you’re serious about preventing crime, there’s only one way to go!

          2. Who ever said that this device is meant to prevent crime?!?!?! Clearly, it is meant to investigate crimes! You are not making any sense.

            If you are suggesting that execution is the only way to prevent crime, you may be right to a certain extent but who wants to live in a world of fear? The solution is proper parenting and education. And yes ethics/morals can be learned/taught.

          3. You mean living in a world where you have to fear being thrown in jail because you have pictures of your children playing on the beach on your phone while you’re being pulled over for a broken tail light?

            I recommend you to do some investigation on your own, and start at http://www.barackobama2011.com/ for example…

          4. Lugnut says:

            WHO wants to live in a world of FEAR???

            Well, the real question is WHO to fear… and if you say there is nothing to fear from the LE community you are seriously mistaken, on drugs or within it yourself. There is MUCH to fear POST 9-11 from the overzealous militarization of our nations police forces, from the Federal Level down to our Local Sheriff…


    2. this is different than simply tracking a phone signal. This sounds more like a way to proactively monitor communication.

  13. police can suck a dick when it comes to this shit thats bullshit at everyone knows it invading privacy all you people that think this is good can go to hell because its doing nothing but giving the police another reason to be dbags about something and have another reason to write a ticket or put someone in jail they are greedy fuckers and this is another way for them to get money in the horrible michigan economy just like detroit shutting down 13 public schools to save their budget

    1. Stop being a criminal and the police wont hate you.

      1. youre stupid..

      2. Racial and social profiling, socio-political scare, etc does not mean you are a criminal. I get detained and harassed all the time, and where i don’t have a completely clean record, its damn well close enough.

      3. Racial and social profiling, socio-political scare, etc does not mean you are a criminal. I get detained and harassed all the time, and where i don’t have a completely clean record, its damn well close enough.

      4. Sure, because police never abuse their authority…

      5. Allow the police to run rampant across our rights, and everyone becomes a criminal at the whim of the police.

        We do not live in a police state here in the US.

        1. says who? its already being used…

  14. The police do not have the right to access that private information AT ALL. No question about it.

    1. Yes they do. You need to read up on the law.

      1. you need to read up on law, to see if the federal goverment allows local law and forcement to have access to personal data without protocal. thats why the warrant system is in place. Its the same as the undisclosed wiretapping without going through the proper channels. These protocals are in place so that the state doesnt miss use their tools and resources. Protect and serve does not mean to scare and violate.

      2. Actually, don’t speak of what you don’t know. But to clue you in on what the smartphone of today represents is that it is not just a PHONE per say… but a private DIARY! Maybe you better do a little research before you quote what is and isn’t allowed by law and the precedents already in place which the current and NEW WORLD order of American PARANOIA Police along with the media will have you THINK is ok. It is not, it is a serious breach of privacy but alas, is now going to the highest courts to rule on. In the mean time, the LEO’s will do whatever they can get away with.

  15. The cops are talking about this too. Interesting technology. http://officerresource.com/2011/04/police-search-cell-phones-during-traffic-stops/

  16. Oh God, this is asking for trouble!

  17. I read that California cops can legally look at the contents of your phone ‘if’ they can bypass security, guess your password, etc. I believe this can occur if they arrest you for suspicion of anything and its on your possession. Anything they find, can be used against you. I’m guessing adb root access in custom roms may be a bad thing in regards to this. This really needs to be addressed by federal and supreme courts, as so much ‘private’ information is now on phones.

  18. Why bother even having a constitution?

    1. Silly rabbit, so they can pretend like they’re not oppressing the people. That’s why.

  19. this is absolutly FUCKED!

  20. I just want to tell everyone here: Use TextSecure! It is a third party app and most importantly uses OTR encryption. If the person you’re texting has an Android phone with TS, then the message is encrypted before it’s sent and it will de-encrypted on their phone. If not, then it would be vulnerable to a tap on your phone (rare), but it would stop anyone from seeing the messages after the fact. OTR encryption is very strong and likely wouldn’t be cracked by anyone if you use a strong password. Just be sure to set your passphrase timeout to a reasonably short period of time.

  21. I would photoshop pictures of their wives/girlfriends being barefoot-all-over and place on phone in a marked dir. would love to see their faces when they start looking at those pics

  22. Fuck the police!!!

  23. I thought the article said,Although, there’s no indication of any wrong doing or abuse, , so whats the problem?
    Does anyone really think police have the time, or care about whats on the average joes phone and he wants to collect this crap for jollllies or harrassment? really? REALLY? grow up kids. looking for problems where there are none, nothing better to do? waste of our tax payer resources trying to comply with these freaks investigation into something that might be happening? I’m willing to be most of you kiddies sure won’t be so hateful if you ever have to dial 911 and these so called jackbooted thugs come to take a bullet for you or a loved one. They would even for you punks btw…same ones who probably would never carry their own gun and call 911 because mcd’s was out of nuggets.

    Look, either the police stay in mediviel times or get with the 21st century and use tools they need..but by God if you don’t trust these people, get a new Mayor who can hire police you trust…and remove the 9-1-1 buttons from your phone…

  24. Anyone who participates in criminal activity knows that cell phones aren’t very secure to begin with. Why do you think it’s safer using a landline or a pre-paid phone that’s untraceable? Anyone with a 15 dollar scanner from Radio Shack can listen to, track and obtain all sorts of information from people on cell phones within a 20 mile radius. This is merely a souped up version of a scanner and I’m sure similar versions have been out for years. Point is, don’t participate in criminal activity. If you’re stupid enough to do it over a cell phone you deserve to be caught.

    1. No… you can’t do that with the DIGITAL spectrum… but you can listen to the analog signal, albeit – illegally!

  25. As someone who lives in michigan, i can say that this will be used for regular traffic stops to see if the person was texting while driving (a primary offence in michigan).
    This sucks……

  26. I think there’s an important distinction to make that most people don’t understand. This isn’t an over the air spying tool. They can’t just pull up beside you and get all your information. They have to physically plug your phone into the device in order to get the information. In much the same way that a cop can’t pull you over and start rifling through your car, they won’t be able to whip out this little bad boy and get all the text messages from your mother and pictures of your cat. It STILL requires imminent probable cause, a warrant, or consent, and for them to have your cell phone in their hands. If you’re REALLY worried about this in Michigan, whenever you get pulled over just throw your phone in the glove box and lock it.

    1. It would be nice if the author of this article would have included such details. Nothing like leaving out the most important facts and making it sound like police can somehow remotely connect to your device over the air and see everything.

      1. You don’t get near as many click-throughs and ad traffic if the story sounds boring.

      2. (See picture above) The one where the scanner is physically plugged into the phone.

    2. lol… and while leaning over into the glovebox, the LEO see’s you and fears that you are reaching for a weapon… I think that’s a wonderful thing to do… Let us know how that works out for ya’ – hahahaha…

      1. When you learn how to drive you’ll realize that most people go to the glovebox during a traffic stop. That’s where probably 90% of people keep their registrations and insurance cards.

  27. WTF?!?!? FUCK DA POLICE! They’re nothing but power hungry bitches with there head up their ass. Serve and protect these nuts. Now they can invade our privacy some more?!?! I hope people aren’t really believing that this bs device is going to be used to help us because it isn’t!

  28. You people are idiots. Maybe if u people actually read u would know the federal courts have indicated a smart phone is considered a computer and therefore it is required to have search warrant before police access any phone. The only exception is exigent circumstances such as those listed in article.

  29. All of you that are gladly giving up your constitutional rights for a false sense of security need to come to grips with the reality that once you give up your privacy, there is no getting it back. Where it will go from here is anyone’s guess (24 hour video surveillance, all calls recorded, gps on all vehicles) but know that pandora’s box has been opened thanks to the patriot act and there’s no going back.

    Look I’m no criminal. If I somehow got involved in an investigation, of course, I would allow them to do whatever it takes to prove my innocents BUT on the same token I would never ever just forfeit my right to privacy to “make the world a safer place” because at the end of the day criminals are going to be criminals. Do I believe that this new piece of technology will prevent crime? No. Can it help solve a case? Maybe. Give up on our privacy all together? Never.

    1. Lol… search Youtube on “Why never to talk to police” It will open your eyes WIDE! I


      You can never, ever, offer any information that will help you, an investigator is looking for information to ARREST you and charge you with a crime, period! Any information will be used towards that effort, not to let you go! lmao! Check the video, you’ll love it I promise!

  30. Once again, police can’t search or access the contents of your phone without a warrant. Before spouting your conspiracies or hatred for those of us that actually try to help you. Anything found without a warrant is not admissible because it was illegally obtained. Any idiot public defender or law school reject could get these thrown out.

    1. Actually, the issue is not so definite as you would make it… it is currently being challenged and there is yet to be a rule. I don’t remember the case, but it was in California and concerned an overturned drug conviction based upon the LEO’s seizing a cell phone a using the contents to convict the dealer. Lol… it seems simple to all of us, but to the LE community, it’s a useful tool that they will fight to have, without warrant!

  31. I honestly don’t care in the least bit about “Big Brother” keeping an eye on me. I don’t engage in anything illegal so this doesn’t worry me. However, I do have a huge problem with them being able to view my pictures. From time to time I have photo’s that only me and my girlfriend need to be aware of and that’s something they shouldn’t be able to see. Period. Sure, this feeling should apply to other things like text and email but think about it this way, i dont care if the whole world can hear me talking dirty to my girlfriend but no one should be able to see what we do behind closed doors. Isn’t that why peeping gets people thrown in jail?

    1. What a way to contradict yourself. Let me see if I can summarize.

      Big Brother should be able to look at you any way it wants because you have nothing to hide.

      But wait, you have something you want to keep private so Big Brother should not be able to look.

      But hey, its okay if they invade other people’s privacy on a massive scale. And it’s okay if they invade your privacy, as long as they only invade some of your privacy.

    2. One amazing fact is how everyone thinks they don’t engage in anything illegal… so, you never exceed the speed limit when driving? Always signal too? Never stepped into the street against traffic, borrowed something you didn’t return, did something not work related while working, etc., etc., etc.

      So… You’d relinquish your rights on the basis that you are not a criminal, therefore require none?

      The SCOUS has ruled… You need to ASSERT your RIGHTS in order to have them, that the rights exist is not enough. Give us a few hundred million like you and the RIGHTS will be as George Carlin claimed, mere conveniences…


  32. @lugnut667 just because you don’t mind your privacy being invaded doesn’t mean that’s what’s good for society. I have nothing to hide from the police either, but guess what, I don’t want them going through my phone if I get a ticket. Why? Because what’s on my phone is none of their f*cking business! The instant we assume that a person who’s hiding something is a criminal is the instant we begin to erode the individual freedoms that make this country great. Wanting privacy IS NOT A CRIME.

    Frankly, the “If you have nothing to hide” argument always seems to brush up against fascism to me, as does the “Only criminals are afraid of the police.”

    GUESS WHAT: Both of those statements are fallacies. If I’m afraid of the police, it might be because I fear anyone who openly carries a gun. Or, it might be that I’m afraid of people who are empowered to kill by the state. There’s no bad reason to be afraid of something; we’re human beings, dammit! We have the right to be scared unreasonably!

    And as to the other point, EVERYONE has something to hide. Everyone’s made one mistake. Whether or not they have it should have it (or evidence of it) on their phone is debatable. Just because you profess to have nothing in this vein suggests to me that you actually have much, much MORE to hide and are using these boards to attempt to compensate.

    Let me give you an example of your own faulty logic turned against you. Why would you use a screen name instead of your real name, Lugnut667? Do you have something to hide? Are you afraid to share your real name with us?

    Clearly, the answer to both statements is ‘yes!’ It doesn’t matter that you’re welcome to your right to privacy in relation to both questions, because merely by my asking the question, I make you seem insidious or criminal!

    We live in a country where the right to privacy is granted by the constitution. To thusly accuse people who want to take full advantage of this right of somehow being criminal is to pervert the most fundamental concepts of fair-play, intellectual honesty and moreover, it’s totally unethical.

    The world is not black and white, my philosophically-stunted friend. Not just criminals who want to hide in the shadows and those who are perfectly innocent who should fear no bright light shone upon them. It’s not simply a matter of lies versus truth, or good versus bad. It is shades of gray, piled atop one another until the individual hues are impossible to discern. When you begin trying to treat this very complex world like it is so simple, you are heading down the path toward undue persecution, rampant paranoia, and tyranny.

  33. Cops are such losers, no wonder so many end up killing themselves. Their whole life they want to become cops then when they do they realise they don’t make shit for money and their lifestyle sucks. Most of them are social rejects to begin with.

  34. Stop complaining. This is what you all voted for. More government control. Get used to it.

  35. This is lame. If a officer ever asked for my phone I would say do you have a warrant?
    If not No you May NOT. As it is invasion of my privacy. If you wish to arrest me fine. But You wont get my phone As I will toss it or something, Will we all need a device to wipe our phones now inside our cars?

  36. This is a non-issue. If local law enforcement has a warrant to search your phone, they will do so legally. If they decide to utilize this or existing technologies in traffic stops or other non-essential purposes, they will be dealt with swiftly, severely, and permanantly. It is shockingly easy for even the layman to open a cellphone, pack it with semtex and reseal it. We do not tolerate local law enforcement abusing the authority granted to them in trust.

  37. okay obviously lugnut has police in his family or he is a cop but this is jus stupid yes if u have nothin to hide fine but u shouldn have ur phone gone thru jus cuz u didn obey the speed limit or stop at a stop sign alot of people have personal shit on their phone whether its pictures of their wife or husband or of their children etc.. so ya it is wrong that they think that they have the right to such everyones phone under any circumstance but everyone has their own opinion bout this so there is really no point in arguein over it the cops will do what they want to no one is gonna stop them cuz their the police!

    1. I ment search not such**

  38. I would just open clockwork recovery an do a quick restore, an say scan that bitch

  39. “What does ‘ROTFLMAO’ stand for!!!!?,” will likely become the next “have you had anything to drink tonight?” in “The Wolverine State.” I’ll advise you to answer with similar vagueness and uncertainty.


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