You are your cellphone and the New York Police Department
knows your phone identifies you better than a fingerprint or an identity card because you can be marked and tracked throughout your life in real time and the breadcrumbs of your history in movement and communication can be recorded, saved, and used against you for future prosecution — and it may not be legal.

A recent internal memo says that when cops make an arrest, they should remove the suspect’s cell phone battery to avoid leakage — then jot down the International Mobile Equipment Identity number.

The IMEI number is registered with the service provider whenever a call is made.
And that data could allow a detective to match, for example, a cell phone used by one suspect to a phone used by another…. civil libertarians are alarmed by the new policy since normally a warrant is needed to obtain information such as calls made or numbers in an address book.

New York Civil Liberties Union associate legal director Christopher Dunn said it appears the NYPD is “taking phones apart to get information” without warrants.
“It’s hard to believe they feel there’s a real need to take out the battery to prevent leakage,” he said. “Instead, it looks like they’re doing this to circumvent the warrant process.” 

Should recording an IMEI part of the booking process?

Should the NYPD be allowed to download the call history from your phone
and any documents or other data stored on the phone?

Or are the NYPD going too far to entrap you in future crimes by digitally associating you in a known time and place in an indeterminate future?


  1. I wonder if they would really take apart an iphone just to get out the battery. It seems to be going too far, doing this. Maybe this is why some phones let you wipe them of their data?

  2. With the iPhone, they’d likely just go into the System Prefs and pull the IMEI from there. On ordinary cellphones, the IMEI is usually printed on the phone under the battery. In each example, however, the IMEI is hidden and you have to actually touch the phone and manipulate it in order to view the IMEI. The “Saving the Battery” excuse wouldn’t work with an iPhone. You’d just turn it off with the button to save the battery… no need to head into System Prefs to do that.

  3. Interesting. It seems someone is peeping in my bedroom…is there any end of it?

  4. I don’t think we really have any expectation of privacy any longer. We’ve become naked airport x-ray machines, IMEI numbers and browser history links.

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