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ACLU: Michigan State Police have been tracking cell phones for years

Oct 24, 2015

Credit Johan Larsson / Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Michigan state police have been using cell phone tracking devices for nearly ten years.

That’s according to documents the American Civil Liberties Union obtained through a Freedom of Information request.

The documents show the devices have been in use since at least 2006 and were first purchased to help fight terrorism.

Since then, the ACLU said the devices have also been used to investigate other, more commonplace crimes, including burglary and fraud.

State police First Lt. Christopher Hawkins said the devices are only used to track the locations of cell phones already known to law enforcement.

"The device can't listen into calls, it can't read text messages, it can't read emails, it can't view photos,” Hawkins said.

Hawkins said the agency must get a warrant or court order before using the devices, except in “exigent cases” such as kidnappings or missing persons.

“It’s unfortunate the technology has been the subject of so much suspicion and misperception, because the device has truly helped [state police] save lives,” Hawkins said.

Hawkins said the department is currently working on a usage policy based on guidelines from the Department of Justice.