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back to article Cops refuse to say if they secretly snarf cellphone data

The American Civil Liberties Union has called on Michigan State Police to account for several pieces mobile hardware in its possession that can quickly download cellphone data without the owner's knowledge. “With certain exceptions that do not apply here, a search cannot occur without a warrant in which a judicial officer …

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Tut tut!

If they need a warrant to use the device, then they can afford to keep it on a shelf and sign it out when authorised. A bit arrogant, I think.

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WTF?

Warrent? We don't need no stinkin' warrent!

> If they need a warrant to use the device

I used to live in Michigan, 20 miles outside of Detroit. I'm struggling for the words to describe the police in Michigan. "Entitled" seems to be the best word. They seemed to act as if the police resources at their disposal are always available for their personal use and don't even bother to hide their behavior. Around Detroit, many of the cops were dating strippers, which gave the strippers some protection until one of them ripped off a journalist.

Michigan cops have no honor and no respect for the law.

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The real name

The real name is Michigan Police State.

(I lived in Michigan for 23 years).

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Secretly download this, assholes ...

I carry a Nokia 5185 ...

TheGreatUnwashed[tm] are a bunch of idiots ... Hopefully, eventually, they will realize that that it's best for a telephone to just be a telephone.

I'm not holding my breath.

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@Jake

Want to help me smash up some looms?

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@ RichyS

I don't see the point in smashing up a loom as I quite like technology. But I'd help you smash up some of these devices that make it easy for the police to ignore my civil rights (which they are supposed to be protecting).

Or do you not see the difference?

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Luddites

@AC

I see the difference. However, I don't think the answer is to carry an ancient Nokia or wear a tin foil hat.

See the difference?

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Anonymous Coward

@ RichyS

"I see the difference."

So why make that comment?

"I don't think the answer is to carry an ancient Nokia or wear a tin foil hat.

See the difference?"

The difference between what? The difference between the answer that you haven't stated and carrying an ancient Nokia?

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Unhappy

@jake - Right, idiots just can't help themselves.

The establishment relies on phone tapping because it knows that idiots just can't refrain from blabbing on the phone.

Whilst it's been ingrained in our culture for at least a 100 years (and from earliest childhood onward) that police et al tap phones, idiots continue to keep saying 'I'm guilty' on the telephone.

Why this behaviour is so predicable and so perennial remains a mystery to me, but it's as reliable as moths attracted to a candle and the outcome guaranteed to be just as inevitable.

Perhaps there's one good aspect to this madness in a similar behaviour, State secrets eventually nearly always leak because people invariably can't keep their traps shut (it's why WikiLeaks is such a cleaver model--like it or not).

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@RichyS

If you want to call me a Luddite because I really hate the fact that governments & multi-national corporations are gathering more and more personal data about individuals, in searchable, mineable databases, then yes. I'm a Luddite. In your eyes.

In my eyes, you're a gullible consumer. Enjoy your bliss.

Just try to remember that sometimes a telephone only needs to be a telephone.

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WTF?

WTF?

"first pays a $272,340 deposit, which they claim represents half the cost of supplying the documents"

Are they paying monks to transcribe the documents using gold-leaf decorated calligraphy or something?

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IT Angle

Not from gold.

they've gone more for irony.

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Grenade

union regs

union labor is expensive at government levels, with guaranteed hourly rates, and guaranteed amount of hours per day. Probably a negotiated caseload from when documents were hand-scribed, even though everything is now photocopied, printed or e-mailed. So anything more than a dozen pages per day (if there's "illumination"), requires an additional full-time hire for each mandatory maximum caseload assignment. Plus redundancy if someone is off for (insert racial/cultural minority hero birth/event date holiday here) because allowing the caseload to go above the negotiated amount even for an emergency is a big no-no.

yes I work for the government. We handle a lot of case type services this way. And have for almost a century.

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Anonymous Coward

they have their answer

"Michigan State Police officials have refused to honor the request unless the civil rights organization first pays a $272,340 deposit, which they claim represents half the cost of supplying the documents."

i think one can safely assume that if they have that much paperwork just on when the devices have been used, they have been used quite a few times...

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Flame

Why the f?

> Apple iPhones and iPads log detailed information on users' every move and store it in a

> device file that's easily readable to anyone with physical access to the device.

> There doesn't appear to be any way to turn the tracking off, and the only way to scrub the

> device clean is to jailbreak it and regularly delete and wipe the file. (The file is also stored

> on computers that sync to the iDevices.)

Why for f's sake?

Sorry, I should have realised, FBI / CIA / NSA -imposed conditions of the licence sorry license.

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Anonymous Coward

Again?

Its already been concluded that the iPhone cache file does not track a persons every move. It only stores a visit to each cell tower area exactly once, further visits are not recorded. This is easy to see in the researcher's movie as their return trip is essentially three large jumps, which makes sense since there would be almost no new cell towers around.

If this device is claiming to be able to track people it must be using something else. In their website photos it's also clear their gadget is not connected to an iPhone, it looks like some microUSB connection. So maybe there's some larger thing at work here.

It would be interesting to know what...

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Anonymous Coward

RE: Again?

"Its already been concluded that the iPhone cache file does not track a persons every move..."

So why do the police want it then?

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@AC

Want what? This company seems to be able to supply location information for smartphones in general, not just iPhones.

I'm saying the cell phone mast location cache file in the iPhone mentioned in the article would not be enough to supply the information police wants. Not even combined with the Wifi cache one.

So is there some secret way of doing this embedded in all devices ie Android, Nokias, iPhones, Windows Phones? That's what I'd like to know.

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Good question..

"So is there some secret way of doing this embedded in all devices ie Android, Nokias, iPhones, Windows Phones? That's what I'd like to know."

Totally agree. What's the betting we discover they are all up to it..?

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WTF?

Really?

Well color me amazed.. you are almost right..This is not implemented to be a location tracker..

Instead this is f***ing Google Streetcar data slurping territory again.. Except in this case they are getting -you- to carry the data slurper. Without your knowledge and without paying you to gather the data they will be using and selling.

This appears to be one of two recording systems in the iPhone;

- The first builds a table of cellphone towers / GPS co-ordinates.

- The second builds a table of Wifi Mac Addresses / GPS co-ordinates.

- I wonder if there are more?

And given that goal it would be probable that the data is only recorded once and is ignored if the same location is revisited and the details have not changed.

They are just building geolocation data, just like Google, skyhook, etc.. their motives do not look very sinister to me, but the practical considerations especially when combined with authorities who take every opportunity they can to copy this data (story from yesterday + border seizures and searches) it gets very scary indeed..

But.. that stuff about it being connected to 'something else', eg sinister black box.. come on man. Ever heard of a USB charger or a USB datacable? and what about all the other people who are reproducing the results.. do they all have a sinister black box too?

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FAIL

WTF?

"Its already been concluded that the iPhone cache file does not track a persons every move. "

Concluded by who?

Is this a case of you asserting something and then referencing yourself as the authority on the matter?

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Anonymous Coward

@AC 10:32

No at all, I did confirm this myself (as one should) but it's also been clearly explain by a real forensics expert:

Read it up on http://blog.csvance.com/?p=136

"Will it give you a 100% accurate GPS point with Date/Time? No. Will it give you real-time tracking data to track someone? No. "

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@Owen Carter

The tables mentioned don't appear to be that sort of thing at all. It appears they are just requesting that information from Apple or Skyhook or what have you, eg cell tower GPS coordinates and caching it in those tables. For example the Wifi tables have WiFI MAC addresses for locations I haven't ever been in. This as also been seen by forensics expert Christopher Vance in his latests post.

The sort of data collection operation you mention might be done using the *harvester tables, but so far no researcher I know of has seemed to be able to provide information on how they are used. Mine are empty, for example.

I'm sorry I wasn't clear on the "something else". What I meant is that the forensics device made by this company appears in all their photos to be used with smartphones other than the iPhone. This implies they may be using something other than this file to actually be able to track people and are able to do so for a variety of devices.

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Anonymous Coward

@ ++++ath0

But it also says

"Can it help you narrow down timeframes and locations of potential suspects or victims? Absolutely, if used properly."

So you seem to be arguing against yourself with that link.

Who said it was a real time tracker? Who said it was 100% accurate - that isnt necessary for it to be a privacy issue.

The fact it provides this data to an external party at all is the problem. Not the fact it is only 80% accurate (enough to lose your kneecaps if you live in the wrong place, enough to see you in jail in most places).

Dont frame the argument in terms that never existed.

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Anonymous Coward

@AC 11:44

If you read the beginning of the article he also found that his Phone had cached points all over town, even though he never left the building and it was a fresh install. So this information is far from reliable and can't be used in court for example.

IMHO 80% is giving it too much credit, in my own experience from my own raw SQL I can't even pinpoint my house or work amongst a cloud of points, even with timing information. I can only figure out the city I'm in at most.

The real question for this article is if this company has access to more detailed data and how it manages to do so across so many devices.

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What if is also being used to log proximity contacts?

Just yesterday on the train, i counted 6 iPhones near me, within leg's distance, and 5 were iPhone 4's. Maybe Apple is tracking iTS phones for theft recovery. Imagine a thief is dumb enough to have wi-fi on and the iPhone (iPhone, for example) is fast enough to detect the MAC address of nearby phones. Then, when it is snatched, a non-down-commanded duress kicks off to indicate whether or not one of those earlier logged wi-fi MAC addresses the only one now moving at a fast clip with the phone sending a duress code.

First, i realize there may not even be such a duress app. User failure to deactivate it might needlessly trigger traces that may or may not involve police.

But, imagine if Apple is only giddily aroused and just trying to monetize the dizzying array of iPhone clusters, along with iPad clusters. Maybe this has something to do with a new product or service or feature that Apple will introduce in under 2 years?

As for Google enlisting involuntary datapoint slurpers... that seems plausible to me. It could also underscore wny (other than national directives and law enforcement demads) we don't have non-jailbreak user tools to tell us when and to WHerE and from what folders data on our devices is leaving our phones.

If this is related to Google's GIS-nuking powers, then once phones have altimeters and barometers in them, Google can offer Geo and Weather services. That is, that is if we're not allowed to disable those features, or if enough "incentivized" users opt in to the program.

Another thought I had yesterday was about Apple user loyalty. Imagine if Apple announced that once a month it would reward 10 loyal iPhoners $1,000 or $10,000, and that the users would come from 2, 5, or 10 clusters of iPhone users. This kind of program would not only help retain existing users, but also grab more. This could make sure the iPhone user base inexpensively grows.

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Big brother

1984 (although a little late) seems to coming faster with every article I read. Who watches the watchers? Don't these folk realise that we're all living on the same planet and there should not be "them" and "us"? Give people a mandate to keep "us" safe and "they" want more and more power. From my UK viewpoint, this looks extremely scary.

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Big Brother

Them and Us

Them , are trying to kill all civil liberties in the USA as part of a larger plan by the GOP to totally eradicate the middle class and making life hell for everyone but the richest of the rich.

That they are at work doing surveillance on all comm traffic in order to spot anyone thinking by himself and quickly try to find a reason to destroy their lives is only natural.

They dont want the people to be able to stand against them.They just want to make you the equivalent of a brainless slave. Giving you candy so you give them a steak is exactly what they want.

Your data , your life , under their control.

They just love it.

The USA needs a revolution.

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"Giving you candy so you give them a steak"

Good analogy.

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FAIL

Wow. Just Wow.

1. Michigan is and has been a Union and Democrat blue state since God was a little boy.

2. The Steve hangs out with His Presidency, the honorable Obama. And to my knowledge are liberal Democrats and have been since they appeared on this plane of existence.

3. Janet Nepolitano heads Homeland Security - Liberal Democrat pushing TSA scanners with those lovely mandatory "or else" intrusive patdowns on 6 year old girls and on Walmart TV telling the rednecks to report each other... cool with partial-birth abortions and such....

It's those damn Republicans all right! BURN THEM! BURN THE WITCHES!

Consider putting down the koolaid and try some tea.

:)

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Give them the money

Then sue them to get it back. The idea that a freedom of information request could be stopped by just asking arbitrary large amounts of money is frankly disturbing.

Hands up everybody who thinks the real cost of providing the information is anywhere that high? Thank you.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Give them the money

>Hands up everybody who thinks the real cost of providing the information is anywhere that high?

Depends which politician you have to bribe to ask the right questions.

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Gates Halo

The title is required, and must contain letters and/or digits.

I want to know which phones are backdoored. I'm don't live in the US, but I still don't want a backdoored phone. We need a list of these manufacturers and never again buy from them. Let them go bankrupt!

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Anonymous Coward

Simple answer

vast majority of them are.

Also, check this list out: http://www.cellebrite.com/ufed-support-center/ufed-supported-phones.html

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You won't GET that list - why?

Because the frackkers will like.

Virtually EVERY major government with a security apparatus will demand backdoor or escrowed backdoor keys. This probaly is why we're going to increasingly see phones with multicores and huge amounts of RAM so that much of that processing power can be spent scarfing up information and encrypting it and stashing it in a hidden cache on the phone. Then, when you are less likely to notice it, your LEDs will not flicker and your logs will not report that your phone was relaying clandestinely-commanded micro-bursts to one or more "owned" towers so that you or other discerning users cannot correlate things.

It may even one day be that ALL phones handshake for whatever reason. But, CERTAIN phones will hold out a handshake and then TAKE data from phones double-back-doored so that data theft or government lifting won't go through a tower. The criminal or agent will just walk up to you and engage you a few minutes or sit near you on transit. Then, unless you get spooked and turn your phone off, you phone will be fingered and touched and groped periodically to establish a baseline of its contents in the event you only use the phone as a data-card-transfer device that does not surf or user the 3G or post 3G network services....

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Flame

I like that it uses a cable

If you are of interest then they would already have the history of your phone's location and all of the data transferred over the air without needing physical access to the phone, so the only other thing this device might bring them is data that you store on the phone, (and if the firmware is backdoored then they might already have got that over the air).

The fact that it uses a cable does offer some opportunities for amusement, however, like perhaps they would be unlucky enough to find that your phone was miswired at the factory, so the data connector was accidentally connected to the capacitor of a xenon camera flash...

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Go

We're not doin' that ...

.... we've never done that and we're not about to stop.

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Badgers

"The police are not here to create disorder...

...the police are here to preserve disorder!"

- Hizzoner Mayor Richard M. Daley (the first one), during the 1968 Democratic National Convention

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Big Brother

Not a problem in the UK

In the good old UK, home of the mother of parliaments, experience shows that the police have special rights. If you are arrested for ANYTHING, and a phone is in your possession (or even in your car), the Police can and do search it for anything. If they find text messages relating to any other crime, they can charge you with that and drop the first inconsequential charge you were arrested for.

No search warrant, no "please can I search you?".

Makes you proud to live in the English Police State.

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WTF?

So?

You want the police to ignore anything that might lead them to solve a crime?

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Remind me not to go to the UK with any electronics...

Since humans are not infallible, it's possible an inept agent could corrupt the phone or hard drive. Doesn't matter if i take backups with me since they'd pillage those, too, right?

(Yes, i realize this could happen in the USA, Japan, South Korea, Spain, and so on...)

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FAIL

No.

I want the police to follow the fucking law..the same fucking law they are so intent on foisting...er, that would be enforcing... on us.

Next question?

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Lord

I want them to respect the law same as everybody else.

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UK Cops

The UK cops wouldn't bother with these. Not because they're less sinister, but because this sounds like far too much effort for them.

All they need to do is ask your network provider under the powers given to them by RIPA. They know exactly where you've been for the last few months (and roughly where you've been for much longer).

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Cellebrite UFED suggests iPhone has more data than others

From their website: http://www.cellebrite.com/forensic-products/ufed-physical-analyzer-2.html

ENHANCED DECODING UFED Physical Analyzer 2.0 introduces enhanced decoding, enabling support for multiple data types such as: chat, email, web bookmarks (favorites), web history, SIM data, cookies, notes, MMS, instant messages, Bluetooth devices, locations, journeys, GPS Fixes, call logs, text messages, contacts and more. The enhanced decoding allows much more data to be analyzed and displayed per mobile device.

iPHONE DECODING ENHANCEMENTS iPhone decoding includes call logs, contacts, text messages, email, locations (Wi-Fi and Cell Tower), web bookmarks Skype (contacts, calls and chat) and Facebook contacts. UFED Physical Analyzer 2.0 is also capable of parsing an iPhone backup as well as an iPhone encrypted backup with known password.

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Anonymous Coward

True

But all that extra information is easy to get by just going to the individual apps in any phone (except cell tower locations but who needs that?)

Good thing they say encrypted backups needs a known password. Now that's a relief.

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Are You Being obServed?

Anyone who still carries a cell phone after it's been proven to snaggle your dingleberries deserves what he gets. I suggest you also remove all fillings from your teeth with pliers, ride-share to work in a wheel barrow, and only eat food grown from your own dung pile.

The troof is out there.

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Joke

Snaggle?

Is that "snagged and tangled"... almost like mixing quick cement and hair? Faster than braiding to a pole.

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Boffin

Ha!

The Michigan State Police force is one of the most corrupt in the World. Good luck ACLU, even if you get a court order.

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Badgers

Ha! indeed

This is the same state whose putative guv'ner is trying to pass a law that allows the state (read: The guv'ner hisself) to summarily fire the duly elected mayor and council members, and to "take over" any town that doesn't do what he wants them to (which is ostensibly to disenfranchise any all public unions he doesn't like...you know, the ones who tend to vote Democratic?)

"Ha!" is the wrong exclamation, AC. What you really mean is: "Sieg, Heil!!"

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