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View Full Version : Michigan: Police Search Cell Phones During Traffic Stops



Dirty
04-20-2011, 09:23 AM
Not sure how this thing works, in the picture on the article it shows the phone being attached by a cable but in the article it gives the impression that it all happens wirelessly.

Within minutes the device can do a "Complete extraction of existing, hidden, and deleted phone data, including call history, text messages, contacts, images, and geotags" ...pretty scary

http://www.thenewspaper.com/news/34/3458.asp

telecast
04-20-2011, 10:52 AM
Saw this on the news a few nights ago. Couldn't tell by the story either. It sounds like it'll do it all wirelessly, but they showed the same pic as the on in your link.

The ACLU is pissed because they want the records of every phone that's been searched since the Sate Police got the device. The cops said ok, here's how much it'll cost you. The Freedom of Information act allows them to collect their costs for reproducing the info + admin costs, along with any other costs they incur.

On the one hand I think it's cool device when there's an actual suspect or if you want to find out who a murder victim was contacting, etc. But if they're using it to do random searches when they pull someone over, that's bullshit.

I know one thing, if I get pulled over I'm going to shut off my cellphone. I'm guessing (hoping?) it has to be turned on for this thing to work.

Bob
04-20-2011, 09:24 PM
The thing is they entire MSP only has like 5 of these I think I read. So it's not like every cop has one in their car. Someone was saying they thought it was just for forensic use.

Gas Man
04-20-2011, 10:25 PM
If they used this on me I would sue the Fuck out of MSP. They need a search warrant to do such.

But I would like to see that info on a more reliable source than that website.

meinschaft
04-21-2011, 08:01 AM
http://www.newsweek.com/2010/02/18/the-snitch-in-your-pocket.html

Dirty
04-21-2011, 09:09 AM
Here's a link to the freep article, also: http://www.freep.com/article/20110421/NEWS06/104210478/ACLU-scrutinizes-State-Police-over-device-grabs-cell-phone-data?odyssey=tab%7Ctopnews%7Ctext%7CFRONTPAGE

meinschaft
04-21-2011, 10:38 AM
Here's more:

http://www.theoaklandpress.com/articles/2011/04/21/news/doc4daef4aa17693644189711.txt

If the MSP wants more than $500,000 to respond to the ACLU's FOIA request (to cover their 'copying costs), the volume of data they already possess must be enormous. Are we going to find out this has been happening with routine traffic stops, without the public ever knowing about it?

telecast
04-21-2011, 10:57 AM
Probably. I'm not sure how things are these days, but back before cell phones got really popular you could listen in to conversations with a simple scanner as long as you had the right frequency. I had one that would scan all frequencies looking for active channels, and I can't tell you how many phone conversations I heard. I suspect these days things are a lot more encrypted, but once something is out in the airwaves it's not protected. This makes me wonder if dowloading information that a cell phone puts out naturally is a violation of privacy or not.

If you read the Freep article, it looks like it can get some info wirelessly, but it has to be connected to get the other stuff. I'm guessing the stuff they get at a traffic stop will be deemed unprotected.

As to the half million dollar price tag, I used to work in local government and we had to respond to FOIA requests all the time. You'd be surprised how a cost can be beefed up. Most government agencies will charge a 10% admin fee, that's $50k of the total right there. Employee costs and benefits, copier time, paper, toner, and anything else you can think of are legitimate costs. If data has to be pulled from archives, add cost. While there certainly has to be a buttload of stuff to get to $500k, I wouldn't be surprised to find out it's not as much as it sounds.

It'll be interesting to see the outcome of this.

meinschaft
04-21-2011, 11:00 AM
"Most government agencies will charge a 10% admin fee, that's $50k of the total right there."

Let's say $50K is an average ANNUAL salary of a guvmint employee. It's going to take ONE EMPLOYEE A FULL YEAR to pull and copy this stuff that MSP says they DON'T HAVE?

Mudpuppy
04-21-2011, 11:28 AM
total bullshit.. way too much technology in this world now..

telecast
04-21-2011, 12:10 PM
No, that's the admin fee, not the employee's wages and benefits. It'd be total cost (wages, benefits, paper, etc etc ad nauseum) + the admin fee.

wormdjd
04-21-2011, 05:19 PM
The device has to be plugged in and it flashes all the data on the phone including information that's been deleted, passwords, contacts and other details; devices like this have been around for years for computers. Since the MSP claims they are only using it in warrant or consent situations, I'm telling my clients that if an MSP officer asks for your phone, ask to see a warrant; if one is not presented decline the officer's request. Officers learn to make it seem like their requests are mandatory through "assertiveness training" but, unless there is a warrant they are not. I'm seeing more and more of this type of thing as technology advances.

Grantzphoto
04-21-2011, 07:07 PM
I heard that the msp was saying that the FOIA request would involve each msp employee going through their email on the clock to produce the results requested. If they can pull my sext's from my phone while I'm riding they sure as hell can get their IT guy to database their emails and search for the required data. We have on of the strongest FOIA laws in the country and this stuff still happens. Its annoying to say the least.

Gas Man
04-22-2011, 12:17 PM
I wonder how this works with the new phones. If these scan units are from 2006... lots changed.

telecast
04-22-2011, 12:24 PM
We have on of the strongest FOIA laws in the country and this stuff still happens. Its annoying to say the least.

Which part? The part where the ACLU can get their hands on the info, or the part where the MSP can charge them?

As previously stated, I've been in this situation many times. The FOIA law is meant to stop government agencies from withholding information from the public, but the ability to charge stops groups like the ACLU from constantly requesting information that costs you, the taxpayer, money to gather and disseminate.


To finish up what I was saying, there is a constant request for information from groups and individuals, and a lot of it is frivolous. So much so, that at times a person could be dedicated to that purpose. Well, since no one can afford that, it takes away from what that person normally does during their workday. That can result in OT, or a heavier workload on others to get caught up. There are other costs associated as well. By allowing the agency to charge, pretty much all of the frivolous requests go away.

Don't imagine for a minute that these requests are few and far between, or that the occurrance is so rare that it shouldn't have an effect. Large public agencies are inundated daily, and even small communities get requests pretty regularly. At my last public employment we had a standard charge per sheet, plus employee costs and admin fees. People that really wanted and needed the info paid for it, those that were just looking for something to stir the shit pot went away.

I have no problem with anyone being able to get their hands on the info, but not at my expense.

meinschaft
04-22-2011, 12:48 PM
This story doesn't make sense. If the MSP has only used these for special purposes/investigations, and NOT during routine traffic stops, why would they need (want?) to charge half-a-MILLION dollars to produce the documents that they may - or may not - have? The MSP has jerked the ACLU around for three years now, finding new excuses NOT to comply with our FOIA law.

From the State Attorney General website/FOIA Law:

Fees for Public Records:
A government agency may charge a fee for the necessary copying of a public record for inspection or providing a copy of a public record to a requestor. A public body may also charge for search, examination and review and the separation of exempt information in those instances where failure to charge a fee would result in unreasonably high costs to the public body. The fee must be limited to actual duplication, mailing and labor costs. The first $20 of a fee must be waived for a person who is on welfare or presents facts showing inability to pay because of indigency.

Anyone want to wager a beer that there's a lot more to come on this story? Methinks this is the tip o' the iceberg.

Grantzphoto
04-22-2011, 01:20 PM
Which part? The part where the ACLU can get their hands on the info, or the part where the MSP can charge them?

As previously stated, I've been in this situation many times. The FOIA law is meant to stop government agencies from withholding information from the public, but the ability to charge stops groups like the ACLU from constantly requesting information that costs you, the taxpayer, money to gather and disseminate.


To finish up what I was saying, there is a constant request for information from groups and individuals, and a lot of it is frivolous. So much so, that at times a person could be dedicated to that purpose. Well, since no one can afford that, it takes away from what that person normally does during their workday. That can result in OT, or a heavier workload on others to get caught up. There are other costs associated as well. By allowing the agency to charge, pretty much all of the frivolous requests go away.

Don't imagine for a minute that these requests are few and far between, or that the occurrance is so rare that it shouldn't have an effect. Large public agencies are inundated daily, and even small communities get requests pretty regularly. At my last public employment we had a standard charge per sheet, plus employee costs and admin fees. People that really wanted and needed the info paid for it, those that were just looking for something to stir the shit pot went away.

I have no problem with anyone being able to get their hands on the info, but not at my expense.I do understand that the ACLU can over burden government agencies. This case however is something that the MSP is overcharging on. They don't want to deal with the potential leagality battles that would come up or the questions about spending and corruption that have persisted over the last few years.

telecast
04-22-2011, 02:49 PM
Don't get me wrong, I'm not defendng MSP here. What I am doing is trying to show how costly this stuff can be. Is the $1/2M an inflated cost to dissuade the ACLU? Of course it is. I suspect meinschaft nails it on the head. But if the MSP is being at least somehwat honest about the fact that they would have to reassemble the information, I can see the cost going very high.

Bob
04-22-2011, 06:18 PM
"Most government agencies will charge a 10% admin fee, that's $50k of the total right there."

Let's say $50K is an average ANNUAL salary of a guvmint employee. It's going to take ONE EMPLOYEE A FULL YEAR to pull and copy this stuff that MSP says they DON'T HAVE?
Just a FYI the average MSP makes $60,000 a year.

On topic, I think the MSP charging $500,000 for the info. was what set ACLU off and rightfully so I think. Had they just cooperated with the FOIA without being a bunch of dicks this probably would of never made the news. When I watched the news last night they interviewed someone from the a ACLU and that seemed to be their biggest complaint and is why they got the media involved. Now, even if these things where never used without a warrant the MSP looks like a bunch of idiots.

aeryck
04-22-2011, 08:36 PM
Saw this on the news a few nights ago. Couldn't tell by the story either. It sounds like it'll do it all wirelessly, but they showed the same pic as the on in your link.

The ACLU is pissed because they want the records of every phone that's been searched since the Sate Police got the device. The cops said ok, here's how much it'll cost you. The Freedom of Information act allows them to collect their costs for reproducing the info + admin costs, along with any other costs they incur.

On the one hand I think it's cool device when there's an actual suspect or if you want to find out who a murder victim was contacting, etc. But if they're using it to do random searches when they pull someone over, that's bullshit.

I know one thing, if I get pulled over I'm going to shut off my cellphone. I'm guessing (hoping?) it has to be turned on for this thing to work.

Pull the battery, it's the only way to be sure. Some phones aren't really off when they're "off".

I can see this device being useful for forensic investigations of criminal cases, but IMHO there's absolutely no reason why a traffic cop should have/use one of these. What are they trying to do, find out if we've been texting while driving?

Mad Dog
04-23-2011, 09:36 AM
Why even tell them you have a phone. Like said...Pull the battery, throw it in the console and tell tell them nothing.
We have a right to remain silent about what we choose...

Gas Man
04-23-2011, 10:29 AM
Good point Mad!!!

junkyardjon
04-24-2011, 08:59 AM
whats a cell phone?.... shut mine off last summer and never looked back. but i do have a toy phone i play with when somebody is standing by me and talking on theres. like i really wanna hear about your life?