Judge: Your Seized Phone Can Be Used To Impersonate You To Spy On Your Friends

A judge in the US has ruled that if your phone is seized by the police, it's completely legal for them to send and receive text messages pretending to be you to try to convince your contacts to incriminate themselves. What?

Story goes, in 2009, police seized a phone that belonged to Daniel Lee, a suspected drug dealer. And then the phone received a text the cops presumed to be a request for drugs.

Here's what happened next:

"[Detective John] Sawyer spent about 5 or 10 minutes looking at some of the text messages on the iPhone; he also looked to see who had been calling. Many of the text messages that Lee's iPhone had received and stored were from individuals who were seeking drugs from Lee."

And that's totally fine. The judge's explanation includes this:

"On his own iPhone, on his own computer, or in the process of electronic transit, Hinton's communications are shielded by our constitutions.But after their arrival, Hinton's text messages on Lee's iPhone were no longer private or deserving of constitutional protection."

As Ars Technica points out, it's mobile phones are tough because they tough on the precedent established for traditional phones, computers, and filing cabinets. But man, that's a tough one to swallow. [Ars Technica via Boing Boing]



    And this is why you should install a remote-bricker.

      Bit hard to activate unless you have your 2nd phone or iPad with a 3G connection in the car ready to activate the bricking process. Alternatively you could install software that can scan for police hat via front camera and self destruct as soon as a cop looks at it (just never wear a police hat when opening your phone ;-) ).

        Or just have a password lockout bricker? I think the Iphone has a default one which does that. I am pretty sure android could have an app for that

      Or, you know, not organise to buy drugs by SMS.

        Doesn't matter what the guy has done, that is no argument for allowing this kind of thing.

          If someone is, for example, supplying hard drugs to teenagers that could potentially be life threatening, of course the police are going to do all they can to stop it.

        It's an important lesson nonetheless, if you don't have 100% control over your own data, who does? What can someone do with your phone? If someone was to get mine, they could recover passwords to every account I own. Paypal, Steam, Ebay, my e-banking etc. All of my important clients server logins and email addresses.

        If I don't have 100% control over the data on my phone, I wouldn't be using it for work, or for anything really.

          I do believe that during the London riots not so long ago the majority of people were using Blackberries with its built in BBM which can be encrypted.
          RIM was in a sticky situation, should they voluntarily provide the details of the encrypted messages to aid the courts or do they stick by the fact that they are offering a secure service.
          If i remember correctly there was no court order to force RIM to divulge the information.
          And no one knows if they could actually 'restore' a encrypted e-mail which would still require the right keys to decrypt...
          This is beginning to sound like a interesting article for gizmodo\lifehacker to investigate how much actual control you have of certain mobile devices?

    Because the important part of drug law enforcement is punishing the users, not going up the chain to the producers. Stupid backwards laws.

      Don't know if serious..

        He is serious, and its a valid point. What is the point of spending our time filling our prisons with someone who wants to have a pill or smoke a bit of pot, with far fewer resources spent on the people who make/grow it?

        If you can't agree with that sir, then I question your intelligence.

          Don't know if serious, because the phone belonged to an alleged dealer, so then they weren't explicitly targeting a drug user, but a dealer...

            The article states they were trying to get his contacts to incriminate themselves, not incriminate him.

    Well, this is America.....what do you expect?

    This will be abused, and then eventually people will get up in arms about it, and they will fix the problem. But by then America will be further down the rabbit hole.

    Pretty sure this has been going on in Australia for years. Not sure whether or not it is legal here, but it definitely happens.
    Police officers confiscate peoples phones on a regular basis (outside nightclubs etc) without warrants.
    I am all for the Police doing their job etc etc, but I'd rather smash my phone on the ground and stomp it into a million pieces than turn it over, especially if it is going to be used to incriminate my friends (Not that anything on my phone ever would).
    Maybe members of the public should start impersonating Police Officers more....

    I don't really care, as long as it's not entrapment, like the way the US FBI captures "domestic terrorists" who were never terrorists in the first place... But for catching legitimate criminals out it sounds like a good idea.

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but this arcticle doesn't represent its headline at all.
    My understanding of the Judge's quote is that messages recieved on the confiscated phone can be read by police becuase they are 'no longer private'. He say's nothing (that's quoted here) about the police then being allowed to respond to the texts and therefore impersonating the phones owner.
    Also, what's with the last paragraph? I think the author had a tough time getting the word 'tough' out of his head.


    This message will self destruct in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1... Puff of smoke!!


    No takers for 'authourized' on the sticker in the photo?

    How about "it’s mobile phones are tough because they tough on the precedent established for traditional phones" in the article?



    Does not matter whether or not this happens in Australia.
    Drug dealers get off pretty easily, most cases 4 years jail time, 2 if on good probation.

    If Australian police want to adopt this method, they should forget about this and instead increase the penalty of dealing. I'm sure if you increased the penalty to Life/Death then it should sway them off the streets dealing, unless they are stupid.
    For those that will say 'death penalty is too harsh'.. Dealers take lives every day by supplying to users, sure this is passively (either the user needs money to buy and kills someone for money, or the user OD'ing etc), but it should not go unpunished.

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