Michigan State Police denies downloading drivers’ phone data

A few days ago, the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan made public their belief that the Michigan State Police might have been using portable devices that allowed them to secretly extract personal information from cell phones of drivers who have been pulled over.

The ACLU also shared the difficulties it was having in making the MSP comply with formal Freedom of Information Act requests for the data the police may have extracted from cell phones belonging to people who were pulled over while driving without being suspected of a crime.

Following those accusations, the Michigan State Police offered their side of the story in an official statement published on its website.

Regarding the FOIA requests, the statement says that 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.”

It also points out that the data extraction devices that the MSP has in its possession can’t extract data without the officer actually having the owner’s mobile device in his hand, i.e. they can’t obtain information from mobile devices without the mobile device owner knowing.

“The DEDs are not being used to extract citizens’ personal information during routine traffic stops,” it explains. “The MSP only uses the DEDs if a search warrant is obtained or if the person possessing the mobile device gives consent.”

Personally, it is this last sentence that makes me worry, since people are strongly encouraged to cooperate with the police even when they know they did nothing criminal.

On the other hand, in the MSP possesses only five of these devices, is it likely that traffic police would be the ones using it?

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