Police, Apple watching, logging and downloading every move you make
April 20, 2011 - 12:48 pm
Two stories hit today that, together, bring this old song by, appropriately enough The Police, to disturbing life.
Every single day
Every word you say
Every game you play
Every night you stay
I’ll be watching you
Oh can’t you see
You belong to me
How my poor heart aches
With every step you take
Police in Michigan are taking the “Oh can’t you see, you belong to me” part very much to heart:
“Law enforcement officers are known, on occasion, to encourage citizens to cooperate if they have nothing to hide,” ACLU staff attorney Mark P. Fancher wrote. “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.”
A US Department of Justice test of the CelleBrite UFED used by Michigan police found the device could grab all of the photos and video off of an iPhone within one-and-a-half minutes. The device works with 3000 different phone models and can even defeat password protections.
You don’t have to be arrested, or even suspected of a crime. Police are doing this during routine traffic stops, in evident violation of Fourth Amendment protections. So what might police glean from your phone? If you’re carrying an iPhone, a lot.
Apple is, without your consent or any warning labels, logging all of your iPhone’s location data and then transferring it over to your computer when you backup or sync your iPhone. The information is easily accessible — unencrypted and in a standard database format. (The option to encrypt is there, though I haven’t tested whether this option obscures your location data.)
Upshot? Any program you install or anyone you let on your computer could access this data, giving that program or that person full access to where you were and when you were there.
There is no evidence that Apple is moving the location data from your computer or phone to any external place. But if police follow the lead of those in Michigan, they won’t have to — the police will grab the data from you. Are we literally evolving into a police state now?
This is all particularly ironic given Apple’s history and its iconic MacIntosh ad, which depicted the little company as a freedom fighter smashing Big Brother’s face with a flying hammer. Apple, along with Google and Facebook, are increasingly becoming Big Brother themselves.