ACLU complains of Michigan State police scanning iPhones during routine traffic stops

“Are cops allowed to snoop through your cellphone during an ordinary traffic stop? According to an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) letter to the director of the Michigan State Police on April 13, that department has several forensic cellphone analyzers deployed in the field,” Glenn Derene reports for Popular Mechanics.

“Forensic analyzers are routinely used in police investigations to recover data from computers and other digital devices,” Derene reports. “Lately, cellphones have become valuable sources of evidence for police, since one phone can include almost all of an individual’s private communications (SMS, recently dialed numbers, email, Facebook and Twitter posts) as well as location data from the device’s GPS unit. The device used by the Michigan State Police is a portable forensic system called the Cellebrite UFED that can suck data from a variety of devices, including… Apple iOS devices such as the iPhone and iPad.”

MacDailyNews Note: According to Cellebrite’s website, their system can scan over 3,000 handset models, with monthly software updates for newly released devices prior to carrier launch. The system includes more than 85 data cables for connecting 95% of all handset models worldwide. Cellebrite has exclusive carrier agreements and works directly with cellular phone manufacturers to receive pre-production handsets prior to retail launch. Cellebrite’s system claims complete extraction of mobile phone data – Contacts, SMS Messages, photos, videos, call logs (dialed, received, missed), ESN/IMEI, audio files, and deleted SMS/Call History from the SIM/USIM.

Derene reports, “This type of forensic device is nothing new, but the ACLU’s concern is that the UFED mobile units might have been used in routine traffic stops—which, the ACLU contends, would violate the Fourth Amendment’s protections against unreasonable search and seizure. [Florida State University’s Fourth Amendment expert Wayne Logan] told us that there is currently disagreement in the courts about whether cellphones, and smartphones in particular, can be searched after a person is arrested. ‘One way of looking at it is that phones are just like any other container. Let’s say I’m stopped for speeding and the police find cocaine, and then I’m arrested for cocaine possession; the police could search my car. They could also search any duffel bags that were in my car, and let’s say that I had a box of notecards—they could search that. If [an officer] can search that container of notecards, the question becomes: Can he also search my iPhone, which also contains note cards of a sort? But the other argument is that it differs completely in kind, since the type of information on the phone is so different.'”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Can o’ worms.


  1. Michigan is the state where State Police used to question suspects without giving Miranda rights, get “confessions,” then give them their rights and re-question them. The Supreme Court put an end to that, too.

    1. Maybe because it is a blog written by Americans about an American company, and in this case about an American state and their laws.

      Also, your assumption that we believe all readers are from America is a little presumptuous.

      Once again, selfish terrorism…

  2. This article was in a Swiss newspaper this morning:
    20th April 2011 17:22; act: 20/04/2011 21:12

    Print iPhone and iPad monitor owner

    Security experts are sounding the alarm: Apple smartphones secretly create a motion profile and save it in a secret file. Affected are older and new devices with 3G function.

    Read the full article article here:

    Strange that nothing of this can be read on this site – Hello MDN…….

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