MSP Statement on Use of Cell Phone Data Extraction Devices

Thursday, April 21, 2011

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Infosec Island received a Twitter message this morning from the Michigan State Police regarding an article published yesterday, State Police Search Mobile Phones During Traffic Stops.

The coverage was based on an article published by TheNewspaper.com which reported that the Michigan State Police have been using data extraction devices to collect information from the cell phones of motorists detained for minor traffic infractions.

The ACLU is currently seeking 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.

The statement from the Michigan State Police is as follows:

Contact:  Tiffany Brown, Public Affairs Section, (517) 241-0970
Agency: State Police

LANSING. Recent news coverage prompted by a press release issued by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has brought speculation and caused inaccurate information to be reported about data extraction devices (DEDs) owned by the Michigan State Police (MSP).

To be clear, there have not been any allegations of wrongdoing by the MSP in the use of DEDs.

The MSP only uses the DEDs if a search warrant is obtained or if the person possessing the mobile device gives consent. The department*s internal directive is that the DEDs only be used by MSP specialty teams on criminal cases, such as crimes against children.

The DEDs are not being used to extract citizens' personal information during routine traffic stops.

The MSP does not possess DEDs that can extract data without the officer actually possessing the owner's mobile device. The DEDs utilized by the MSP cannot obtain information from mobile devices without the mobile device owner knowing.

Data extraction devices are commercially available and are routinely utilized by mobile communication device vendors nationwide to transmit data from one device to another when customers upgrade their mobile devices.

These DEDs have been adapted for law enforcement use due to the ever-increasing use of mobile communication devices by criminals to further their criminal activity and have become a powerful investigative tool used to obtain critical information from criminals.

Since 2008, the MSP has worked with the ACLU to narrow the focus, and thus reducing the cost, of its initial Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. To date, the MSP has fulfilled at least one ACLU FOIA request on this issue and has several far-lower cost requests awaiting payment to begin processing. The MSP provides information in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act. As with any request, there may be a processing fee to search for, retrieve, review, examine, and separate exempt material, if any.

The implication by the ACLU that the MSP uses these devices "quietly to bypass Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches" is untrue, and this divisive tactic unjustly harms police and community relations.

Source:  http://www.michigan.gov/msp/0,1607,7-123-1586-254783--,00.html

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