The CelleBrite UFED can read anything on a smartphone without the owner being aware it's happening. (Photo Credit: CC BY-ND/Hatbuzz)

The American Civil Liberties Union is investigating whether the Michigan State Police have violated the civil rights of motorists by using an electronic device that captures information from a drivers’ cell phone without their knowledge. The CelleBrite UFED, a mobile forensics device that works with 3,000 different cell phone models and can even break password protection, can reportedly copy all photos and video from an iPhone in less than 90 seconds, reports Popular Mechanics.

Michigan Police allegedly attempted to extort ACLU

According to, the ACLU requested in 2008 to view records relating to the Michigan State Police’s mobile forensics program, particularly the function of the CelleBrite UFED in that program. The alleged response from Michigan Police was that access to the records would be allowed, but only if the ACLU paid the Michigan State Police a $544,680 fee.

“Law enforcement officers are known, on occasion, to encourage citizens to cooperate if they have nothing to hide,” ACLU attorney Mark Fancher wrote in an organizational statement. “No less should be expected of law enforcement, and the Michigan State Police should be willing to assuage concerns that these powerful extraction devices are being used illegally by honoring our requests for cooperation and disclosure.”

Violation of Fourth Amendment protections may have occurred

The use of the CelleBrite UFED to read SMS, recently dialed numbers, email, Facebook updates and Twitter posts from a driver’s smartphone – in addition to GPS data and Google Maps geotags – may violate Fourth Amendment protections from illegal search and seizure, says the ACLU. The organization is already involved in a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security involving warrantless electronic searches of laptops and cell phones belonging to people entering the country who are not under suspicion of having committed crimes.

“A search cannot occur without a warrant in which a judicial officer determines that there is probable cause to believe that the search will yield evidence of criminal activity,” Fancher wrote. “A device that allows immediate, surreptitious intrusion into private data creates enormous risks that troopers will ignore these requirements to the detriment of the constitutional rights of persons whose cell phones are searched.”

Popular Mechanics:

An attorney weighs in on reading texts without a warrant

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