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Please step away from the cell phone, Sir.
April 19, 2011 8:36 PM   Subscribe

Should Cops Be Allowed to Scan Your Phone During a Traffic Stop? In Michigan, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed a complaint [PDF letter here] alleging that Michigan State Police officers used forensic cellphone analyzers to snoop in drivers' cellphones during routine traffic stops. [Before they fulfill an ACLU FOIA request, the MSP wants a $272,340 deposit up front to cover their costs of retrieving analyzer data, which is obtained without the cellphone owner's knowledge.]
posted by cenoxo (97 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is why I communicate exclusively via handgun.
posted by TwelveTwo at 8:39 PM on April 19, 2011 [27 favorites]


That Michigan state police car is badass.

Also I only ever carry one of those candy-filled plastic novelty phones around when driving so I'm not distracted. They are welcome to scan it for questionable chemical flavourings but if they're after my galleries of self-shot dick MMSes they are shit outta luck.
posted by tumid dahlia at 8:40 PM on April 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


Just another reason to keep your crimes to yourself and your co-conspirators limited to dogs. If you have problems with them, ship them to Iran.
posted by brando_calrissian at 8:44 PM on April 19, 2011


Welcome to Michigan...where we take over your government, eliminate your educational system, suck data from your phone, and give your money to corporations...

It's time for ALL of us to embrace the 2nd amendment!
posted by tomswift at 8:47 PM on April 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


Every time someone starts encouraging the left to arm themselves I assume it's an agent provocateur. I apologize for being paranoid. And I'm sad I live in a country where this isn't entirely unimaginable.
posted by mecran01 at 8:53 PM on April 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm gonna go out on a limb and say "No, they fucking shouldn't."
posted by kafziel at 8:53 PM on April 19, 2011 [32 favorites]


With any luck, soon these sorts of challenges and appeals to the law become unnecessary -- intelligence agencies will snowball themselves to death with information they don't have the capacity to meaningfully process, and they can continue to justify their budget increases, government aid to distressed communities can go on under the name of 'security' rather than 'socialism' or 'welfare', and we can all go on our merry way knowing that the system is too hopelessly clogged to pose any real threat to anybody, everyone all happily playing along with the Grand Charade and trying to get through life as best they can.

That's my theory, at least.
posted by Capt. Renault at 8:54 PM on April 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


intelligence agencies will snowball themselves to death with information they don't have the capacity to meaningfully process

That might be the case for agencies collecting data, but I wouldn't necessarily expect that for individual officers checking information on cell phones; there's plenty of stuff on a phone that could be interesting just to the idly curious. I would imagine that abuses of the ability to check information on the phones of people being stopped by the police would be less "OMG potential terrorist must get data" and much more "Dude, check it out, this guy sends some WEIRD text messages. Man, I could never get my girlfriend/boyfriend/spouse/partner to do THAT! That's some crazy shit!" and so on in that fashion. I don't think that I have anything incriminating or even interesting on my phone but I think even more strongly that it's no one's damn business.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 8:59 PM on April 19, 2011 [6 favorites]


That Michigan state police car is badass.

That's why it costs $272,340 to burn a CD or two, that car's not paying for itself.
posted by peeedro at 8:59 PM on April 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


we can all go on our merry way knowing that the system is too hopelessly clogged to pose any real threat to anybody, everyone all happily playing along with the Grand Charade and trying to get through life as best they can.

Or — and here's how it's been working so far — they draw totally wrong conclusions from their data and a bunch of innocent people go to prison or worse. Just take a look at how many people held for years at Guantanamo were eventually released and absolved of all charges. Yours is the future of Kafka, not the Keystone Kops.
posted by indubitable at 9:02 PM on April 19, 2011 [12 favorites]


The city of Detroit is really getting fucked by law enforcement recently. The Detroit Police Dep't been under a consent decree from the Dep't of Justice for nearly a decade, basically because the city cops can't stop beating the shit out of suspects. The police can't get their shit together to make the reforms (part of the problem, of course, is that our ex-mayor was screwing the federal monitor who was supposed to be overseeing the process). The Michigan State Police are closing their Detroit post because of budgetary issues, while simultaneously reneging on an agreement to open a full-service crime lab in the city (the DPD's crime lab was shuttered because they were mishandling and losing evidence). And on top of all that, Border Patrol/ICE has gone completely off the rails with regards to questioning and detaining people who don't look like they belong; they even tailed and detained parents who were picking up their children from elementary school.

Well, I'm glad they have a new shiny toy to play with, anyway. Assholes.
posted by ofthestrait at 9:02 PM on April 19, 2011 [14 favorites]


Yours is the future of Kafka, not the Keystone Kops.

I'm glad for you that you think there's anything we can do about it. I've long given up that idea.
posted by Capt. Renault at 9:03 PM on April 19, 2011


Welp, if I get pulled over by a cop the first thing I'll do is yank the battery out of my phone and stuff it up my ass. Try getting my lame-ass text messages now!
posted by Existential Dread at 9:06 PM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Welp, if I get pulled over by a cop the first thing I'll do is yank the battery out of my phone and stuff it up my ass. Try getting my lame-ass text messages now!

with an iphone battery no less!
posted by special-k at 9:09 PM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Capt. Renault: "With any luck, soon these sorts of challenges and appeals to the law become unnecessary -- intelligence agencies will snowball themselves to death with information they don't have the capacity to meaningfully process, and they can continue to justify their budget increases, government aid to distressed communities can go on under the name of 'security' rather than 'socialism' or 'welfare', and we can all go on our merry way knowing that the system is too hopelessly clogged to pose any real threat to anybody, everyone all happily playing along with the Grand Charade and trying to get through life as best they can.

That's my theory, at least
"

We mustn't underestimate American blundering.
posted by doublehappy at 9:12 PM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Why do you think the edges are rounded?
posted by indubitable at 9:12 PM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Kwame up sum time.

Ex Dread, forget the Battery, ditch the SIM. Technology exists that can track phones even if the power is off and battery is taken out.
posted by clavdivs at 9:13 PM on April 19, 2011


or keep an old cell phone to your ear whist driving, the ones that are 1982- size of a booze bottle box, that way the police can only ticket you for visual impairment.
posted by clavdivs at 9:20 PM on April 19, 2011


Technology exists that can track phones even if the power is off and battery is taken out.

Crap. Well, with my phone you have to yank the battery to get the SIM, so it'll just be digging a little further. But can they get your data without the battery? Or can they just track the phone?
posted by Existential Dread at 9:23 PM on April 19, 2011


Technology exists that can track phones even if the power is off and battery is taken out. - cavdivs

Source?
posted by defcom1 at 9:33 PM on April 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


A similar case reached the California Supreme Court not too long ago. (disclaimer: this isn't a strict self-link, but I have an interest in the site) They held that reading through all the text messages on a suspect's phone incident to a custodial arrest, with no warrant, doesn't violate the Fourth Amendment.

One of the tricky issues that's bound to come up is that modern smartphones pull a lot of their data off the Internet. If police can search your phone when you get pulled over or placed under custodial arrest, does this mean they can read through your entire gmail inbox, just because you could access it through a thing that you had on your person at the time? Can they trace your location history via Google Latitude? Where will courts draw the line between what's in your pocket and what's on a server in a different state somewhere?
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 9:35 PM on April 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


The next model of luxury car will equip the glove box with a device to generate a localized electromagnetic pulse at the press of a button, so if a driver is stopped she may wipe anything that needs wiping. "I was just getting out my registration to be ready for you, officer."
posted by gac at 9:37 PM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Welcome to Michigan...where we take over your government, eliminate your educational system, suck data from your phone, and give your money to corporations...

Hey there Michigan, how ya doin? Yeah? Really? Unemployment still blows? You elected a batshitinsane governor? You gutted the rest of what little education there was? What's that? Did you just say "we're out to become crazier than Arizona?" Well in that case...

Get fucked. I'm glad I moved out. So glad, in fact, that I no longer call myself a Michigander. Take your great lakes and stick them up your ass. I hope the Red Wings lose.

- Mister Fabulous.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 9:38 PM on April 19, 2011 [6 favorites]


Do these devices work remotely, as in you don't have to hook up the phone to the scanner? I'll assume yes for any Blue Tooth-enabled phone, but others? If yes, then I'd be worried. They could scan your phone without you knowing it.

If no, here's the conversation:

Occifer: Give me your cellphone.
Me: I do not consent to searches. How can I help you?
Done.
posted by XhaustedProphet at 9:39 PM on April 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


They held that reading through all the text messages on a suspect's phone incident to a custodial arrest, with no warrant, doesn't violate the Fourth Amendment.

I'd kind of like to know the reasoning that led to that conclusion, but I also suspect that there wasn't any.
posted by kenko at 9:39 PM on April 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


The solution to this is obvious. They've illegally copied someone's intellectual property and those people should be recompensed to the same degree the RIAA demands if they believe you have illegally downloaded a 3 minute MP3 file.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 9:44 PM on April 19, 2011 [20 favorites]


intelligence agencies will snowball themselves to death with information they don't have the capacity to meaningfully process

Key word: "meaningfully".

This last decade can be summed up with the attitude of confabulating conclusions then selectively acquiring/producing/massaging supporting data through truthiness after the fact.

See also: Iraq's WMDs armed with Nigerian Yellow Cake.
posted by yeloson at 9:44 PM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]



I'd kind of like to know the reasoning that led to that conclusion, but I also suspect that there wasn't any.

The reasoning is that if you had a notebook on you, they could read that.

But mind, this is after the person has been arrested. Presumably, if there is no arrest and no warrant, they can't read your phone or your notebook without your permission. Also, it has to be on the person - they can't arrest someone and then go to their house and get it.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:46 PM on April 19, 2011


If this is being done wirelessly and without consent, I sense an upcoming market for little dash mounted pouches that are Faraday Cages. Don't steal my idea, you stealing stealers.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 9:47 PM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's time for ALL of us to embrace the 2nd amendment!

We do already. This is Michigan, where even Michael Moore is a lifetime member of the NRA.

It's not helping.
posted by riruro at 9:48 PM on April 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


They held that reading through all the text messages on a suspect's phone incident to a custodial arrest, with no warrant, doesn't violate the Fourth Amendment.

That can be (and was) stretched to include plain view, iirc, but the device the Michigan police are using can bypass locked phones. This seems to be more like breaking into a lock box without a warrant than thumbing through a notebook.
posted by ryoshu at 9:50 PM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


As an aside, it always boggles my mind how dumb criminals are. I mean, seriously, cellphones? I'm surprised the police even need a device to suck down your data. They could work with the cellphone providers to have your phone load a spyware update and just suck down all the data. Nevermind criminal plotting done over a cellphone or even text messages!

The thing is, it's obvious that you shouldn't keep incriminating photos of yourself on your phone, but people do. Actually there was a post on reddit recently where a kid had killed someone driving drunk. The post was a picture of the kid drinking and driving he had taken with his cellphone that apparently the police found.

Oh well, I'm not a fan of invasive searches like this, but there is also the flip side: Dumbass criminals who keep incriminating stuff on their phones.
posted by delmoi at 9:50 PM on April 19, 2011


(Well, how dumb a lot of the criminals who get caught are)
posted by delmoi at 9:51 PM on April 19, 2011


Should Cops Be Allowed to Scan Your Phone During a Traffic Stop?

I think the answer is "No." Others have put it more colorfully. I could, perhaps be convinced that they have the right to if they were responding to a complaint that you were phoning or texting and driving. At most. Otherwise, there is no reason why cell phone information can carry anything relevant to a violation of traffic rules. I'm not far from being convinced that regardless of the claim this is ridiculous. And to do it without informing the suspect is just crazy.
posted by chemoboy at 9:54 PM on April 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


The solution to this is obvious. They've illegally copied someone's intellectual property and those people should be recompensed to the same degree the RIAA demands if they believe you have illegally downloaded a 3 minute MP3 file.
Brilliant. And just imagine if they actually copied a music file...

On a more serious note, here's some related coverage from California. Keep in mind that you can (and should) password lock your phone. You cannot be legally compelled to give up the password (unless you have a written guarantee of immunity from prosecution in certain situations) and most cops on a routine stop won't have reason to go further.

You can also keep your phone in the glove box, which may* mean it is not incidental to your person and thus not subject to a warrantless search. Plus, it saves you from distraction or breaking the law** by using it while driving.

*Not a lawyer.
**In some states
posted by willhopkins at 9:56 PM on April 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


Do these devices work remotely, as in you don't have to hook up the phone to the scanner? I'll assume yes for any Blue Tooth-enabled phone, but others? If yes, then I'd be worried. They could scan your phone without you knowing it.

The device requires the cops to physically have the phone an plug it in. It copies the contents of the phone onto a USB stick for smokey to evaluate down at the station.

Some Redditors say it is this thing.
posted by birdherder at 9:56 PM on April 19, 2011


Metafilter: Also I only ever carry one of those candy-filled plastic novelty phones around when driving so I'm not distracted. They are welcome to scan it for questionable chemical flavourings but if they're after my galleries of self-shot dick MMSes they are shit outta luck.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 9:59 PM on April 19, 2011


Occifer: Give me your cellphone.
Me: I do not consent to searches. How can I help you?

Occifer: TIME TO TRY OUT MY NEW MACETASER! IT'S A TASER AND IT'S ALSO MACE!
posted by tumid dahlia at 9:59 PM on April 19, 2011 [38 favorites]


*PSSSSSHHHHHHHBZZZZZZZZZT!*
posted by tumid dahlia at 10:03 PM on April 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


Between this and the collection of location data by cellphone companies and various other ridiculous bullshit (AT&T wiretapping scandal etc) it's become painfully apparent that some sort of digital Bill of Rights is needed to prevent the endless encroachment of a police state via unregulated communications technology. It doesn't really take a genius to point out that this shit is fucked up.
posted by mek at 10:04 PM on April 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


It seems like the old ACLU advice of locking your car door when asked to exit your vehicle would also apply here.

Just toss your phone into the glove box or down in your map pocket before you get out, lock your doors and carry on as normal.
posted by madajb at 10:04 PM on April 19, 2011


The device requires the cops to physically have the phone an plug it in.

Not necessarily -- see CelleBrite: Using the Bluetooth (PDF manual: more here.). Couple this with a BlueSniper Rifle and the boys in blue might have a pretty long reach.
posted by cenoxo at 10:11 PM on April 19, 2011


Occifer: TIME TO TRY OUT MY NEW MACETASER! IT'S A TASER AND IT'S ALSO MACE!


Only way to make that more epic would be the MACHETASERâ„¢ - the machete that shoots mace as it tases!!!!
posted by mannequito at 10:12 PM on April 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


They both ride horses...
posted by Samuel Farrow at 10:13 PM on April 19, 2011


There is no reason to think that locking your phone with a password prevents these devices from accessing your data. For example, a quick googling produced this: Demonstration: Forensic Recovery of an iPhone 3G[s].
posted by mek at 10:14 PM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Not necessarily -- see CelleBrite: Using the Bluetooth (PDF manual:...
OK...
Press to continue. The UME-36PRO then instructs you to enter "0000" in the phone to complete the paring between the devices. Once doing this, all data transfer between the UME-36PRO and the phone will be performed using Bluetooth.

So the cop would need to physically have to enter the bluetooth PIN on the phone, or you, the owner would need to enter it when your phone beeps at you while the copper is back in his cruiser trying to pair his device with your phone.
posted by birdherder at 10:18 PM on April 19, 2011


Take it from me, people: this shit is fucked up.
posted by Meatbomb at 10:22 PM on April 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Also, if citizens need to be mounting Faraday Cages in their cars in order to uphold their freedom, we all already lost. Can we try to start over in China?
posted by chemoboy at 10:31 PM on April 19, 2011


Also, if citizens need to be mounting Faraday Cages in their cars in order to uphold their freedom, we all already lost.

In Democratic America, Faraday Cage you!
posted by ryoshu at 10:38 PM on April 19, 2011 [7 favorites]


Sort of, if it's against the law to chat and drive which it is in many places now. This is a real problem in California. On the other hand, naturally you don't want the content of all your conversations exposed to the police even if they have a legitimate argument that you were using your cellphone when you should have been watching the road. The law is having a problem keeping up with the advance of technology in this respect.
posted by anigbrowl at 10:39 PM on April 19, 2011


Only way to make that more epic would be the MACHETASERâ„¢ - the machete that shoots mace as it tases!!!!

Dammit. I was hoping it would shoot small tasty salad greens.
posted by spinturtle at 10:50 PM on April 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


And on top of all that, Border Patrol/ICE has gone completely off the rails with regards to questioning and detaining people who don't look like they belong

To be fair, it's pretty easy to overdo it, since both Law Enforcement and Canadians tend to naturally gravitate to the same locations.

(All kidding aside, it's actually a very real problem.)
posted by Sys Rq at 10:50 PM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sort of, if it's against the law to chat and drive which it is in many places now. This is a real problem in California.

If we think it's appropriate for police to surreptitiously obtain chat and call logs off of our cellphones so they can better enforce texting-while-driving laws, then we are well and truly fucked.
posted by mek at 10:51 PM on April 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


we think it's appropriate for police to surreptitiously obtain chat and call logs off of our cellphones

That's horrible. People like you are what's wrong with this society.
If you're going to respond to only one part of what I wrote to make a cheap shot, then so will I.
posted by anigbrowl at 11:06 PM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sorry, I wasn't intending to accuse you of believing that - I was pointing out that could very well be a justification for these types of searches. Which is genuinely scary.
posted by mek at 11:12 PM on April 19, 2011


There is no reason to think that locking your phone with a password prevents these devices from accessing your data. For example, a quick googling produced this: Demonstration: Forensic Recovery of an iPhone 3G[s] .

Interestingly, the CelleBrite's website tells its users to get into an iPhone they need to have access to the perp's computer to grab plist files from a backup in iTunes, then copy them to a USB stick, then the phone can be run through the gizmo to extract the data.

Also of note, Apple enhanced the data protection in iOS 4 for iPhone 3GS and iPhone4 products which make them less susceptible being read. This guy says that for now, only the Mail.app data is protected and would require a password (or brute force attack to guess it) to unencrypt the mail and attachments. But what I don't know is if a method to make dump an image of the iPhone running iOS 4 still works if you don't know the passcode. Or at least makes it more difficult.

I've yet to be asked for my phone in traffic stops or crossing the border or the inland checkpoints. But I do have a passcode lock on it and figure if the shit went down I could try and enter the passcode in wrong 10 times and remote wipe it if that was about to happen. I'm 100% above board lawful person, but the government does not have the right to search my personal papers that happen to be stored electronically on my phone.
posted by birdherder at 11:26 PM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, OK. Well, on the plus side I can think of an easy way out of this problem: the police take the motorist's phone number and validate it by calling the person there on the side of the road. Then, if they believe the person was texting-while-driving, they just write a ticket - and if the motorist contests it, the local cell towers will have a log of whether the phone with that made a transmission in the minutes prior to the issuance of the ticket, or not, without anyone needing to know the recipient or content of said transmission.

Hmm, I'm starting to think there might be some value in a sort of digital escrow service to provide discoverable data in court cases without infringing upon privacy.
posted by anigbrowl at 11:26 PM on April 19, 2011


In Vancouver, where the use of handheld devices while driving recently became illegal, enforcement is achieved with a spotter system - one police officer observes drivers in traffic from a discreet spot with aid of binoculars, communicates license plates to a second officer, who pulls over the cars in question. It's a pretty low tech but effective way of issuing tickets, and I see them nailing people all the time during rush hour.
posted by mek at 11:31 PM on April 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


You seem to be of the mistaken mindset that police don't already do whatever the fuck they want with cellphone call data already.

My Google-fu is failing me at the moment, but I'm pretty sure there have been reports in the news recently about police departments being given back-door info-dump access for cell phone call records, and them pretty much using it whenever they wanted because there hasn't been much in the way of court cases so far which tell them they can't.

If they want to pull info on whether you were talking or texting during a specific time window, they can find that out without doing anything with your phone. All they need in the number or even just your name and maybe your SS# (which you provided to the cell company for credit check).
posted by hippybear at 11:37 PM on April 19, 2011


Was the article you had in mind this one, hippybear?
Sprint fed customer GPS data to cops over 8 million times
posted by mek at 11:45 PM on April 19, 2011


You can tell the people texting on the freeways because they drive similar to someone that has had a few drinks. They'll be driving below the speed limit, may jerk to change lanes if they look up and see slower traffic ahead, etc. The cops don't need fancy technology to find distracted drivers. The recent campaign by the CHP have been all about having zero tolerance for distracted drivers -- be it the phone or a bag of chips or whatever.
posted by birdherder at 11:46 PM on April 19, 2011


I'll just put this here. Don't talk to the police. (James Duane, a professor at Regent Law School and former defense attorney, and a police office, tell you why. Very entertaining lecture.)
posted by dabitch at 1:29 AM on April 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


Scan Your Phone During a Traffic Stop?

What?! Omg. Ai ai ai.
posted by nickyskye at 1:40 AM on April 20, 2011


You can tell the people texting on the freeways because they drive similar to someone that has had a few drinks.

Yes, but how are you going to make it stick in court? There's no breathalyzer reading that you can put in the record, so now it comes down to the cop's word against the driver's. And despite the stereotype, overall that means more people will get away with breaking the law than innocent people will be ensnared by its misapplication, because absent some more meaningful guideline, most judges will rely on the 'rule of lenity' to break the tie (I am bending the term here a bit for simplicity's sake).
posted by anigbrowl at 1:45 AM on April 20, 2011


So password your phone. If they ask you for the password or to unlock it, refuse. If Cellebrite doesn't need your password, then:

XhaustedProphet: "Occifer: Give me your cellphone.
Me: I do not consent to searches. How can I help you?
Done.
"

Exactly.

I've had my iPhone passworded since I got it. It's not inconvenient at all for me to have to unlock it when I want to use it. It only takes a few seconds.
posted by IndigoRain at 1:58 AM on April 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I like how that Cellbrite promotional site shows their gadget plugged into a Blackberry. A properly-configured RIM should encipher the user data block with AES-256 when the device is locked or off. Unless the thing has the magical decryption chip from Sneakers they're guilty of false advertising.
posted by clarknova at 2:11 AM on April 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Keep a decoy cellphone, which only contains hundreds of ass pics, in your car at all times.

For best results, remove the phone from the back of your pants before handing it over.
posted by orme at 2:11 AM on April 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


If this is being done wirelessly and without consent, I sense an upcoming market for little dash mounted pouches that are Faraday Cages.

I have a feeling keeping your wireless communication device in a Faraday cage may be detrimental to the user experience.
posted by Dr Dracator at 2:23 AM on April 20, 2011 [8 favorites]


Welcome to the future we've all been waiting for
posted by tbonicus at 2:54 AM on April 20, 2011


Ex Dread, forget the Battery, ditch the SIM. Technology exists that can track phones even if the power is off and battery is taken out.

"Can I cook it first?"
posted by longbaugh at 3:14 AM on April 20, 2011


I keep watching this thread in hopes of way to counter it.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 3:16 AM on April 20, 2011


If anyone can read your phone's content remotely without interaction, your main problem isn't a legal one.
posted by delegeferenda at 3:44 AM on April 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I can't believe no one has asked if There's an App For That.
posted by Scoo at 4:36 AM on April 20, 2011


intelligence agencies will snowball themselves to death with information they don't have the capacity to meaningfully process

this is not a safeguard. it is not like humans are plowing through this information, it is all information processing. but, to the extent it really is just algorithms/pattern matching/whatever, at least it has the POTENTIAL to be disinterested/objective. so PERHAPS you can remain anonymous in a sea of data, but only until someone becomes interested in you. then all of the information is available. this is what i find most troubling.

unfortunately, as already alluded to throughout this thread, i do not believe that traffic stops will be the bottleneck in the ability to aggregate this data, so while this practice seems particularly egregious, it is not of particular concern. (indeed, it seems like a pretty stupid move on the part of the powers that be, as it is less effective than, and will draw attention to, practices that are probably already in place)
posted by lulz at 4:42 AM on April 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I thought the Tea Party was supposed to be all about finding these people in government who are all about un-American things. I can't think of many things more un-American than having cops read my personal emails and messages. Where's their outrage?
posted by Goofyy at 4:46 AM on April 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Where's their outrage?

The same place it's always been: pointed at brown people.
posted by aramaic at 5:13 AM on April 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


What stops particularly devious criminals from using decoys who get stopped and then hand over a phone that can distribute a virus to whatever operating system the police use?
posted by MuffinMan at 5:21 AM on April 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


The device requires the cops to physically have the phone an plug it in. It copies the contents of the phone onto a USB stick for smokey to evaluate down at the station.

I wonder how many policemen it takes to revert the Cellebrite firmware to a point where it is a phone analyzer and not a chess computer any more? Because I have an idea for a killer app.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 5:23 AM on April 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'f they can stomach sifting through the shit they find on my phone they're more than welcome to read it. In fact, I'd love to be sitting there in front of them staring back matter-of-factly as they look up at me in disbelief.

Welcime to the future we've been dreaming of..
posted by tbonicus at 5:43 AM on April 20, 2011


Don't steal my idea, you stealing stealers.

I am so sorry, but you're late.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:06 AM on April 20, 2011


You know, I'm foursquare against this, and think it's invasion of everyone's privacy.

But I'm reminded of the passage in Wiseguy (the source material for "Goodfellas") where Henry talks about how the older bosses didn't even have telephones in their houses, how it was too easy to get in trouble on them because you get so used to them that eventually you'll slip up. If you needed to talk, to someone, you went for a drive together and turned the radio way up. For phone-heavy crimes, like bookmaking, they'd pay exorbitant rent for a room in someone's apartment one day a week and put the phone in the tenant's name.

So if you are into criminal activity, get a dummy phone and do some reading.
posted by Leta at 6:18 AM on April 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


This sort of thing makes me glad I have an obscure cell phone. And that I don't leave Bluetooth on and willing to pair automatically with anything that asks.
posted by wierdo at 6:23 AM on April 20, 2011


Also, I'd like to know how they track a phone that's off with the battery removed. Magic? Having read the 3GPP and GSM specs, I don't see how that's possible. The antenna is not coupled to the SIM, so it can't be powered like an RFID tag.
posted by wierdo at 6:27 AM on April 20, 2011


You seem to be of the mistaken mindset that police don't already do whatever the fuck they want with cellphone call data already.

My Google-fu is failing me at the moment, but I'm pretty sure there have been reports in the news recently about police departments being given back-door info-dump access for cell phone call records, and them pretty much using it whenever they wanted because there hasn't been much in the way of court cases so far which tell them they can't.

If they want to pull info on whether you were talking or texting during a specific time window, they can find that out without doing anything with your phone. All they need in the number or even just your name and maybe your SS# (which you provided to the cell company for credit check).


This is true.

The DOJ (and other law enforcement arms) have virtual unlimited access to 'hotwatch orders' on credit card transactions, cell phone location and realtime call records, internet search requests and probably realtime IP logs. Granted some of these records require a prefunctory subpoena signed by a judge, but you're insane if you believe that to be any kind of barrier whatsoever. And other only require an officer to call a special number at the phone company or punch in his police login number on the dedicated backdoor software.

If they want to see what's on your phone, they will look. They're being polite to ask you first. A traffic stop just means that you did something to catch thier attention and provoke them to look through your shit as opposed to a drug suspect's or their nieghbor's shit. If they wanted to look for another reason, they already would have.

The fourth amendment argument might work if you have a team of high price lawyers to raise it in court for you. Otherwise, if you can't pay full retail price to secure its protection, don't make the mistake of thinking that it applies to you. It doesn't.
posted by T.D. Strange at 6:51 AM on April 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


Mister Fabulous: "Get fucked. I'm glad I moved out."

Uh-huh. Yep. I gotcha. We moved out too.

Mister Fabulous: "I hope the Red Wings lose."

OK now you're crossing a line here, buddy.

This whole concept is kinda screwed. I have a friend in MI. Back in college he was a full-on militia type. Talk radio, conspiracies, government out to get us kind of guy. "The man is keeping us down!" he used to say. Then one day out of the blue he switched majors to criminal justice. Went to the academy, now he's a state trooper. I asked him what changed. He said it was simple: He realized that the man was ALWAYS going to keep people down. So why be the people, when you could be the man? The people always get shafted. Who wants to be on the receiving end of that? The only way to make it better was to be the man. If you're on the inside, you can do something about it.

I wonder what he feels about this. I can't ask him, probably, because he'd likely be prohibited from saying anything, even privately, about how his superiors run the show. My guess is he would think it was bullshit.
posted by caution live frogs at 6:59 AM on April 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's getting to the point where I want to construct an entirely separate identity, with papers. Keep a cell phone in a little box composed of layers of mu-metal and copper. Run everything through a VPN. Run computers off of a flash drive where pretty much everything is done in RAM. Encrypt, encrypt, encrypt.
posted by adipocere at 7:08 AM on April 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Note that the upcoming Android 3.0 (Honeycomb) release is reported to have some level of full-disk encryption. Since the source code will be available once it goes mass-market, we can vet it for exact what it encrypts, how well, etc.

It'll be like my current Border Patrol stops: turn off the laptop.
Agent: "I'm going to search your laptop."
Me: "I am not resisting, but I do not consent to this search."
Agent: "What's the password?"
Me: "I don't remember it."

If a cop pulls you over, you simply turn off your phone. It's not my fault I have a bad memory and my phone uptime is measured in months.
posted by introp at 7:32 AM on April 20, 2011


You know, as much as this is obviously an obscene violation of privacy rights and another in a series of backwards steps into a lunatic surveillance-state where 'dignity' becomes as outmoded an anachronism as 'sprezzatura' or whatever is to us today, there's a small part of me, the part that commutes daily by bike, that thinks that anything that gets people to be a little more circumspect about using their cell phones in the fucking car has a sort of bright side to it.
posted by metaman livingblog at 8:14 AM on April 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was wondering how long it would be until cell phones, like PCs and laptops, had full-disk encryption. If introp is right, not too far off, then.
posted by Blackanvil at 8:20 AM on April 20, 2011


I keep a blender plugged into the dash whenever I'm driving, and just drop the phone in if I get pulled over. The false alarms are really expensive, unfortunately.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 8:46 AM on April 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


People

2 easy solutions.

1. Carry replacement insurance on your phone, so if the man wants it, snap it in half (oops). Replace.

2. Cheap phones are everywhere. Carry a drop phone in the glove box.
posted by djrock3k at 9:04 AM on April 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


No.
posted by whimsicalnymph at 9:05 AM on April 20, 2011


I can't believe no one has asked if There's an App For That.

Well more seriously, are there security apps for our phones? Will a password keep this stuff from happening? I see a pretty decent market for the tin foil crowd (myself included) for an app that keeps my data mine, and not anyone elses.
posted by Big_B at 9:14 AM on April 20, 2011


I keep a blender plugged into the dash whenever I'm driving, and just drop the phone in if I get pulled over. The false alarms are really expensive, unfortunately.

Try it now with the new Will It Blend Mobile Edition!
posted by Big_B at 9:14 AM on April 20, 2011


Big_B: are there security apps for our phones?

It is not something that you can do at an app level. For security and stability reasons, applications are (nearly universally) restricted in what they can do. Now, an address book app could chose to encrypt its own data, of course, but it can't do anything about OS-provided services like call logs, launching apps, activity logs, etc. Those sorts of things have to be handled at the OS level.

Google's addition of broader encryption is, it seems, in response to the security-conscious businesses/govgroups that view the RIM Blackberry-family products as secure. (They both are and aren't, but that's a topic for another day.) The fact that the rest of us consumers are getting decent (hopefully) whole-phone encryption is just a perk, but one that we should definitely take advantage of.
posted by introp at 9:23 AM on April 20, 2011


Mrs. Pterodactyl: " there's plenty of stuff on a phone that could be interesting just to the idly curious. ... "Dude, check it out, this guy sends some WEIRD text messages. Man, I could never get my girlfriend/boyfriend/spouse/partner to do THAT! That's some crazy shit!" and so on in that fashion. I don't think that I have anything incriminating or even interesting on my phone but I think even more strongly that it's no one's damn business"

"Did you see what her HUSBAND is???"
posted by symbioid at 5:02 PM on April 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'll bet that this cell phone stun gun could be easily reconfigured to put a UFED out of commission.
posted by neuron at 9:14 PM on April 20, 2011


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