Coppers in the former British colony of Virginia are stealing data from the phones of citizens they pull over.
The Michigan State Police are using handheld “extraction devices” which packet sniff the car’s electronic data and internet connection.
The gizmo is peddled by a company called Cellebrite and can download text messages, photos, video, and GPS data from most brands of mobile phones.
It can bypass security passwords and access some information. Which is a pretty serious drive-by hack. It is particularly galling since the people they have pulled over might not have committed a crime.
The move has miffed civil rights groups in the US who feel that accessing a citizen’s private phone information like this is a violation of the Constitution’s 4th Amendment.
The smugglers and criminals who drew up the US constitution were dead against unreasonable searches and seizures as a barrier to trade.
The American Civil Liberties Union has asked the coppers about their use of the devices under the Freedom of Information Act. The coppers have said they are happy to comply if the ACLU provides them with a processing fee in excess of $500,000. So that would be a no then.
Of couse the ACLU says that is not particularly fair and that a public policing agency should be open.
We are expecting this to end in court, but it is a bit alarming that there is gear that can conduct a drive by hack, being used by coppers, with no legal oversight.
It means that a policeman does not have to ask for a girl he fancies phone number in a bar any more. He just runs the device and knows her number, address, friends, and if she is single.
What is perhaps a little more chilling is there is a mentality amoungst police and security forces that thinks that this is ok.