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ACLU Asks Michigan Police to Explain Use of Cellphone Device

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By T. Kelly, Special to the NNPA from the Michigan Citizen –

DETROIT -- The Michigan chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is questioning the Michigan State Police's use of devices that capture information from cellphones. Called "extraction" devices, the technology can access information “that many people consider to be private, to be beyond the reach of law enforcement and other government actors," said Mark Fancher, an ACLU attorney.

Under the Freedom of Information Act, the ACLU is seeking information about the police use of the devices. The ACLU filed its first request in 2008, said Fancher, and have continued since with a series of requests.

Once we knew the MSP indeed had the devices and were using them, we followed up to discover under what circumstances the devices were used, Fancher said.

MSP have responded that it will cost a half a million dollars to gather the information and are refusing to provide it without the money.

"This should be something that they are handing over freely, and that they should be more than happy to share with the public -- the routines and the guidelines that they follow," Fancher said.

He noted that the MSP listed duplication costs as one of the main costs, yet when asked to produce documents, the MSP told the ACLU there were none.

The ACLU said the devices could violate Fourth Amendment rights.

The ACLU is also concerned that since generally law enforcement has more frequent contact with communities of color, whether the devices were being used disproportionately in communities of color.

"There is great potential for abuse here by a police officer or a state trooper who may not be monitored or supervised on the street," Fancher said.

The national ACLU has asked similar questions about the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's use of devices to gather information from travelers' computers and cellphones.

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