Monday, September 3, 2012

Civil Rights Alert: New Police Device Can Extract Your Cell Phone Data

I know that technology offers brand new ways for the average Joe to interact with the world, but sometimes a new piece of technology comes along and I have to wonder why.  Why did someone make this?  What were they thinking?

Auto Clipart Images This weekend, I read an article about a new piece of technology that falls into that category:  the Cellebrite UFED Touch Ultimate.  Created by the company Cellebrite, this box of goodies lets any local law enforcement officer hook up to just about any mobile device - cellphone, smart phone, tablet, e reader - and extract all the data inside said mobile device.  And by "all the data" I mean emails, passwords, text messages, contact information, account information, even items that you previously deleted!

Now, I understand that such a device is more than useful for the police when investigating a crime.  But I object to regular police officers, driving around doing traffic stops, carrying these devices with them.  The police need to have a warrant to get this type of access, so there is no reason for an officer to carry such a device around unless the officer is going to attempt to get that information otherwise.

Which is a basic abuse of the trust that the public puts into the police.  People want to help the police, or at least don't want to argue or say "no".  Abusing the tendency of people to say "yes" to gather such large quantities of personal information is immoral, even if it's technically legal since the person "volunteered" to give the officer his or her mobile device.

It's still wrong for the police to extract personal information from another person's mobile device, unless the police have enough evidence to get a proper warrant.

What can we do about this?  Know your rights. I suggest you check out the YouTube channel FlexYourRights.  You do not have to let an officer search your car, your purse, or your cell phone.  Learn how to politely say "no".   You only have to let an officer see your driver's license if you are driving a car;  there is no federal mandate requiring ID for walking around.  Some states do require you tell the police officer your name if asked, but saying your name is different from producing ID.

Why not cooperate?  Won't these new extraction devices make the world safer?

First, getting these quantities of data won't help a police officer on the spot.  The data needs to be uploaded to a computer, typically back at the police station, for the proprietary software to decode everything.  So there is no immediate gain in safety.  And safety does not come from the police knowing everyone's text messages, or viewing everyone's pictures.

Second, to paraphrase Benjamin Franklin, people who give up their civil liberties for the illusion of security deserved neither liberty nor security.  And I am not willing to give up my civil liberties.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Feel free to agree or disagree, just be polite.

Freaky Friday News: Unicorn Licenses

Los Angeles County Gives a Young Resident a Unicorn License Last month, a resident of Los Angeles county, Miss Madeline, sent a handwritte...