Monthly Archives: April 2011

State Cops Have a Device that Secretly Searches Cellphones

Wait a minute.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan urged the Michigan State Police MSP today to release information regarding the use of portable devices which can be used to secretly extract personal information from cell phones during routine stops. For nearly three years, the ACLU has repeatedly asked for this information through dozens of Freedom of Information Act requests, but to date it has not been provided.

ACLU Seeks Records about State Police Searches of Cellphones via Pogo Was Right.

Michigan state cops — and thus presumably lots of other state and federal cops and TLAs — have a secret “portable devices that have the potential to quickly download data from cell phones without the owner of the cellphone knowing”? And they’ve had it for three years?

This has to be tinfoil stuff, right? Right?

Uh-Oh..

According to CelleBrite, the manufacturer of at least some of the devices acquired by MSP, the product can extract a wide variety of data from cellphones including contacts, text messages, deleted text messages, call history, pictures, audio and video recordings, phone details including the phone number and complete memory file dumps on some handsets.

CelleBrite touts itself online as a “maker of mobile forensics and data transfer solutions”.

Cellebrite’s mobile forensics products enable extraction and analysis of invaluable evidentiary data including deleted and hidden data for military, law enforcement, governments, and intelligence agencies across the world.

Among the goodies in their product line is the Cellebrite UFED Forensic System:

The Cellebrite UFED Forensic System is the ultimate standalone mobile forensic device, ready for use out in the field or in the lab.

The UFED system extracts vital information from 95% of all cellular phones on the market today, including smartphones and PDA devices (Palm OS, Microsoft, Blackberry, Symbian, iPhone, and Google Android). Simple to use even in the field with no PC required, the UFED can easily store hundreds of phonebooks and content items onto an SD card or USB flash drive.

Cellebrite UFED supports all known cellular device interfaces, including serial, USB, infrared, and Bluetooth. Extractions can then be brought back to the forensic lab for review and verification using the reporting/analysis tool. Cellebrite works exclusively with most major carriers worldwide including Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint/Nextel, T-Mobile, Rogers Wireless – Canada, Orange France and Telstra Australia, as well as 140 others. This ensures that future devices are supported prior to retail launch.

Yikes. Does this sort of search violate the 4th Amendment? It should, but presumably the courts will treat it much like an actual search of a phone incident to a stop. Courts, such as the California Supreme Court recently, have held that such searches are allowed incident to arrest — but it doesn’t follow that a such an intrusive search would be allowed incident to a stop since there’s no way to hide a weapon in a cellphone SIM card; also not all stops are equal.

Posted in Law: Criminal Law, Law: Privacy | 3 Comments

Gustavo Sardiña Reads the Miami Herald — Twice

It seems I’m not the only one who reads the Herald with too much care. Consider this commentary, sent to me today by reader Gustavo Sardiña:

On Monday, the Cuban Communist Party held its sixth ever “Communist Party Congress.” The Miami Herald covered the party congress in both its English language “Miami Herald” and its Spanish language “El Nuevo Herald” with startlingly different headlines. The front page of the Miami Herald (English) includes the following headline: “Fresh air may finally be seeping into Cuba Congress.” The front page of the El Nuevo Herald (Spanish) includes this headline: “Cuba: mas de lo mismo. El sexto congreso del Partido Comunista entra en su etapa final.” This translates to “Cuba: more of the same. The sixth congress of the communist party enters its final stage.”

So which is it: “fresh air” or “more of the same”? (This isn’t the first time the Herald has a “contradictory headlines” problem. See Michael’s post Spot the Difference.)

Both versions of the article include the same byline (by Frances Robles), and are for the most part similar in content. They both include background on prior party congresses, quotes from American University’s William LeoGrande to the effect that “[t]his is the most important party congress since the party was founded,” and Raul Castro describing what is to come as “[a] truly extensive democratic exercise.” The “democratic exercise” in question:

  • the first party congress without Fidel Castro. Thus, according to both versions, “[t]hat means real debate between delegates;”
  • the approval of certain economic proposals (curiously, the English version numbers them at “about 300” proposals while the Spanish version numbers them at “close to 200” proposals) intended to liberalize Cuba’s economy. The proposals include allowing “micro-businesses” and home ownership, and laying off 500,000 government workers.

The two versions of the article differ however in some details that have (IMHO) a real impact on the tone and tenor. Besides the obvious conflicts in the headlines, the Spanish language version includes details omitted from the English version including that the economic proposals agreed upon are not law. Raul Castro instead called them “orientaciones de una naturaleza politica y moral.” This doesn’t translate easily, but, in a nut shell, the proposals are “guidelines for natural development of politics and morality.” It is instead, according to the Spanish language article, up to local municipal and provincial officials and party bosses to make changes to local law – not up to the “party congress.” This is a detail of seemingly considerable importance that was inexplicably omitted from the English language version. The English language reader is therefore left with a very different take on the “economic proposals” than the Spanish language reader.

I take no position in this post on the happenings in Cuba. I wasn’t there, have never been there, and can’t with any credibility comment on what happened in Cuba on Monday. But, I can say that the Herald’s editing of Frances Robles’s article raises (not for the first time) doubt in my mind about the credibility and journalistic integrity of the Miami Herald and its editors.

FWIW, I’d blame the editors more than the reporter here. First, reporters don’t get to write headlines. Second I bet the (not very adept) cuts were intended to make the article fit some space.

That said, while the different headlines might be human error, there is indeed something odd about putting such different headlines on two otherwise pretty similar versions of the same story. I wonder if the editors on the two papers even check each others work — does the Anglo editor read Spanish? Are the deadlines running in parallel in a way that makes better coordination too difficult? Whatever the source of this difference, the end result is just a little too much like politicians who say one thing on Spanish radio and another thing to Anglo audiences to make anyone feel good about it.

Posted in The Media | 1 Comment

Congratulations to Kele Stewart

Kele Stewart, an Associate Professor of Clinical Legal Education here at U.M., has been named a Fulbright Scholar.

Kele will spend a year in Trinidad, based at Hugh Wooding Law School where she will study the implementation of the child welfare system in Trinidad and establish a child advocacy clinic at Hugh Wooding.

Posted in U.Miami | Leave a comment

Google Weather Is Back

No idea why, but the widget is working right now, so I’ve restored it to the right column. I like the colors.

Posted in Discourse.net | 1 Comment

Another Conference I’d Like to Go To

The Surveillance Studies Network has launched a call for papers for Cultures of Surveillance for an event to be held at UCL London Sept. 29-Oct. 1. Looks like I’d learn stuff — they’re very interdisciplinary.

Unfortunately I’m already planning to be in Oxford for the OII’s A Decade in Internet Time: Symposium on the Dynamics of the Internet and Society, Sept. 21-24, where I’m giving a paper. And I don’t think I can justify staying on in the UK for another week to go to both. Even if I were to crash on friends’ couches to hold down expenses — and I think I still have enough friends there to pull it off — I could never justify missing nearly two weeks of classes when I’m going to be teaching first-year Torts again.

Pity.

Posted in Talks & Conferences | Leave a comment

The Scouring of the White Horse – The Occasional Pamphlet

Stuart Shieber writes about what he believes is the oldest extant human artifact that has survived due to continual maintenance. I wonder if there’s anything older in China?

Posted in Etc | Leave a comment

WP Weather Widget is Not Happy

The WP Google Weather Widget I’ve had in the sidebar decided for no apparent reason today to go nuts.

Instead of a pretty picture, I got:

Warning: simplexml_load_string() [function.simplexml-load-string]: in {directorypath}/plugins/wp-google-weather/wp-google-weather.php on line 162

The error is highly reproducible, so it looks like it may be toast, although I can’t figure out what might have changed on my end to cause this. Nor it seems can others.

I’ve substituted the WP Wunderground widget, at least for the time being.

Posted in Discourse.net | 4 Comments