The story was the lead item on the Thursday evening news at Fox Charlotte. The lead in by Morgan Forgerty came with the usual "first and only" on Fox catch phrases.
Charlotte, N.C. -- A YouTube video promotes the products available from a company called Cellebrite.
Their technology can break password protection on 8-thousand different cell phone models and tablets. Investigators can extract existing and deleted information including phone calls, text messages, contacts, photos and video.
The Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department has the system. Cellebrite's C.E.O. Jim Grady wouldn't reveal the details of the contract but he says the Charlotte program is typical."We give police a powerful tool just like any other tool that the police department uses," Grady said.
Grady said rules for gathering evidence are set by their communities.
CMPD Spokesman Rob Tufano said "The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department always obtains a court order in compliance with state and federal law before tracking mobile phones except in cases involving exigent circumstances."
The A.C.L.U. has been looking into the information cell phone companies give to police. They are seeking ways to safeguard against abuse of our constitutional right to privacy. "Things like who you're talking to and what you're talking about those are enormously personal and we need to make sure that information isn't out there being freely exchanged," said A.C.L.U. of N.C. Spokesman Mike Meno.
Tufano said they'll provide more details about Cellebrite on Thursday.
But City News Watch had the story two months ago.
CHARLOTTE MECKLENBURG POLICE DEPT. PURCHASE TO DOWNLOAD ALL YOUR DATA?
Should police be permitted to download all of that data in under a minute ½ just because you were, say, pulled for speeding? Stopped at a “Checkpoint”?
Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department has spent tens of thousands of dollars with a company called Cellebrite that sells devices which do exactly that.
There is no known policy in place for how such a device would be used, but citynewswatch would like to hear from CMPD if that is incorrect.
Cellebrite literature explains that their devices can break password protection, work on over 3000 different models of mobile equipment and can 'Complete extraction of existing, hidden, and deleted phone data, including call history, text messages, contacts, images, and geotags.'
The DOJ has tested the device to accomplish download of all phone, text, photo, and video in under 1 ½ minutes from mobile devices.
An ordinance passed by City Council on March 8, 2010, just prior to the Cellebrite expenditures totaling $25,000 against funds converted from Asset Forfeiture Funds to Public Safety Grant 4386-x.
There is no explanation except “various programs and equipment” for $370,000. Compare this to the kind of detail other cities provide to the public and even to what Charlotte did a few years earlier, and the secrecy in police and other spending should raise alarm bells.
Cedar's Take: Blogs like CNW and CP spend countless hours pointing and clicking, digging through miles of data seeking the truth. We know the local media feeds off the blogs and at the same time completely refuses to offer so much as a hat tip for our efforts.
In this case CNW did all the ground work, all Kris Kirkland had to do was call Cellebrite and email CMPD. It would have been nice, not to mention professional to acknowledge the source.
Cedar Update: Seems more than a few people miss the point of this post. First Fox News Charlotte clearly used information found on Charlotte News Watch to develop their story without so much as a casual mention.
Second, CMPD dropped a large chunk of change without any oversight from Charlotte City Council, by simply calling it "Various Programs".
Third, The big brother aspect of the Cellebrite contract wasn't the point.
But calling me Paranoid? Seriously?
I know the old line, "if you are doing nothing wrong, you have nothing to worry about". But as we have seen overzealous law enforcement, and being the wrong place at the wrong time, add some vague evidence and suddenly you are a suspect.
We have a constitution that protects us from unreasonable search.
Scanning your cell phone or iPad for text messages or your latest tweet to build a case against you crosses that line. How many times have you sent a text or tweet only receive back a "huh?"
As Americans we have an expectation of privacy, cameras, drones and downloading your tweets and text messages goes against the most basic of our rights. Privacy.