What Police Get When They Get Your Phone


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By Electronic Frontier Foundation, Cindy Cohn, and Danny O’Brien - Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

Your phone is a window to your soul - and that window has been left open to law enforcement. Today, even small-town police departments have powerful tools that can easily access the most intimate information on your cell phone. Upturn’s Executive Director Harlan Yu joins EFF hosts Cindy Cohn and Danny O’Brien to talk about a better way for law enforcement to treat our data.

When Upturn researchers surveyed police departments on the mobile device forensic tools they were using on mobile phones, they discovered that the tools are being used by police departments large and small across America. There are few rules on what law enforcement can do with the data they download, and not very many policies on how the information should be stored, shared, or destroyed.

In this episode you’ll learn about:

  • Mobile device forensic tools (MDFTs) that are used by police to download data from your phone, even when it’s locked
  • How court cases such as Riley v. California powerfully protect our digital privacy-- but those protections are evaded when police get verbal consent to search a phone
  • How widespread the use of MDFTs are by law enforcement departments across the country, including small-town police departments investigating minor infractions
  • The roles that phone manufacturers and mobile device forensic tool vendors can play in protecting user data
  • How re-envisioning our approaches to phone surveillance helps address issues of systemic targeting of marginalized communities by police agencies
  • The role of warrants in protecting our digital data.

If you have any feedback on this episode, please email podcast@eff.org. Please visit the site page at https://eff.org/pod101 where you’ll find resources – including links to important legal cases and research discussed in the podcast and a full transcript of the audio.

This podcast is supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation's Program in Public Understanding of Science and Technology.

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26 episodes