NYPD, told it can’t use “Glomar” denial, now claims it has no records on Millions March cell phone surveillance
The January decision in the case of Millions March NYC v. NYPD represented a decisive victory for transparency around cell site simulators and could be an example to agencies across the country, but transparency and privacy advocates remain concerned about StingRays.
Secretive federal agencies such as the Central Intelligence Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are notorious for refusing to confirm or deny the existence of their records. The issue becomes trickier when local law enforcement agencies, tasked with serving their communities, reply to public records requests in similar fashion. The New York Police Department has used the infamous “Glomar response” in the past to keep records secret, but this week a New York court ruled that the NYPD can’t use it this time.
Mobile phone forensic extraction devices have been a law enforcement tool for years now, and the number of agencies using them is only rising. As part of an ongoing investigation, we have finally been able to turn up some usage logs of this equipment, from the Tulsa Police Department, and Tucson Police Department. While the logs don’t contain specifics of why the phone was being searched, it does list the make of the phone, the date, and the type of extraction - and it underscores just how often the tech is getting used.
In response to a recent public records request, Chicago Police claimed to have no records related to Cellebrite tech used to extract data from cellphones. Which is interesting, considering that CPD had already released that information not even a full two years earlier.
Responding to our recent request for mobile phone forensic tools records, Denver Police Department has provided us with not only contracts, but a training bulletin for their Cellebrite Universal Forensic Extraction Device. Cellebrite’s UFED, as the device is more commonly known, is the leading model of mobile phone data extraction tools in law enforcement.