Whatever ever happened to the good ol’ days where getting pulled over just meant you would get a speeding ticket, or if you’re lucky, just a warning? Well, if it’s up to the Michigan State Police, those days are not only long gone, but a speeding ticket is now reason enough to harvest all the information possible on you, including all of your e-mail, social networking, texting, personal photos, and virtually anything else you might have on your cell phone, or in many cases, your smartphone.
And no, we don’t mean that the police officers take your phone for a few minutes during the traffic stop to see if you were texting or surfing Facebook while driving. Instead, the officers use a device such as the CelleBrite UFED, which makes an exact copy of all of your phone’s data, and we do mean all data, including the deleted parts that even you don’t have access to anymore.
So how is this justifiable, or even legal? The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is arguing that it isn’t, as would most people when it comes to handing over all of your digital data for a police officer to copy and go through on their own time.
And when asked to provide the type of information being stored and for what purpose, the police department replied that it would gladly hand over the information—for half a million dollars.
Outrageous? Yes. Legal? Well, the battle of whether cell phones are protected by the Fourth Amendment still rages on; but it appears that unless you are arrested, handing over your phone for a search is the same as agreeing to a search of a locked dashboard or trunk. You have the right refuse the search, but police officers usually trick you into consenting by wording the question in a way such as “Do you mind if we take a quick look at your phone?”
So the next time you get pulled over, make sure to pay careful attention to what the officers ask for, and keep your phone out of sight.