Sunday, June 26, 2011

Police Use Cell Phone and Nav Data to Spy on Drivers

Doug Newcomb
Brothers and aware of leaving your cell phone on while traveling long distances. Insurance and Police agencies are tracking your every movement while driving and talking. Even if just riding along with someone else will lessen the medical payout if in a accident? Brother're screwed if you speed from point A to point B and involve in a accident! Insurance company will seek out info how fast you were speeding along?!? Turn off that Damn Silly Fone if not needed!

In recent weeks we learned that Apple and Google are spying on people carrying the companies' smartphones. No big surprise there. But two other paranoia-inducing tech-tracking revelations that came out last week are perhaps more alarming for motorists: State police in Michigan have been collecting data from drivers' cell phones during routine traffic stops, and police in the Netherlands have used data from TomTom navigation systems to catch speeders and also determine the best places to install speed cameras.
It's enough to turn even the most tech-loving driver into a Luddite.
If you're stopped by a state cop in Michigan, you could be asked to hand over your mobile phone along with license and registration. And using a cell phone extraction device from a company called Cellebrite, the law could find out a lot more about you than you ever imagined.
The folks over at Translogic got their hands on a Cellebrite UFED that can grab data from over 1,800 different cell phones. They report that the information -- call history, contacts, text messages, photos and videos, whether they've been deleted or not -- can be downloaded to a USB drive within seconds. Translogic also used a software program called Lantern from Katana Forensics to analyze the data from an iPhone, including locations previously visited and recorded by Google Maps.
The American Civil Liberties Union has been on the case of the Michigan State Police (MSP) for using UFED devices during what the ACLU calls routine traffic stops, and claims that it violates the 4th Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure. The ACLU has asked for data from the MSP showing how the devices are used, when they are used and if they've been used without permission.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the MSP has in turn asked for over a half million dollars to cover the costs of retrieving and assembling the necessary documents to comply. Hey, times are tough in Michigan and the state needs the money. The MSP also claims that the UFED devices are used "only if a search warrant is obtained or if the person possessing the mobile device gives consent." What would you say if a cop asked you to hand over your phone?
Traffic cops in the Netherlands have taken a more proactive approach  to snaring speeders and other law breakers -- and left portable navigation device maker TomTom with some explaining to do to its customers. Some of the company's nav systems can send GPS info to TomTom, and the information is used to route drivers around traffic and provide more accurate arrival times.
TomTom also shares the info with the government in the Netherlands, which uses it to analyze traffic congestion and solve safety issues. But the Dutch press revealed that police also used the info to catch lead-footed drivers and as a basis for deciding the best places to install speed cameras.
The data used by the Dutch government didn't include information on individual drivers, and TomTom has barred its further use. The company also released a letter to its customers and the company's CEO made a video explaining the company's position on driver privacy. What he didn't mention is that some of his company's nav system also point out to users where speed cameras are installed.
Sort of makes you think twice about using certain tech behind the wheel. And the wisdom of downloading and installing, say, a smartphone app from an insurance company.

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