Allegations by the ACLU of Michigan that Michigan State Police have the capacity to download the contents of an individual’s cell phone without the individual’s knowledge during a routine traffic stop have created quite a buzz since they issued a press release last week. The story has slowly begun to be picked up in the media, including TechLand and Popular Mechanics.
As the ACLU explained in their press release, though, there appears to be a high price tag on obtaining records that would shed sunlight on any the practice and its scope:
Documents provided in response confirmed the existence of these devices, but MSP claimed that the cost of retrieving and assembling the documents that disclose how five of the devices are being used is $544,680. The ACLU was then asked to pay a $272,340 deposit before the organization could receive a single document.
In order to reduce the cost, the ACLU of Michigan narrowed the scope of its request. However, each time the ACLU submitted more narrow requests, MSP claimed that no documents exist for that time period and then it refused to reveal when the devices were used so a proper request could be made.
Organizations like the ACLU, EPIC, EFF, and major media organizations routinely file under Freedom of Information or open records laws to uncover whether our rights are being violated. If the state can make it financially onerous for them to do so, we are all at risk.
Whatever happened to the “If you have nothing to hide…” mentality? Oh, right – that’s only supposed to apply to us.
Thanks to FourthAmendment.com for pointing me to recent coverage of this issue.