MSNBC: Minorities hit hardest by iPhone tracking technology

Jeff Poor Media Reporter
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Victim politics meets Big Brother-style technology, who would have thunk it?

Friday on MSNBC’s daytime programming, host Thomas Roberts explained that in the wake of revelations the iPhone tracks your movements with its operating software, minorities, specifically blacks and Latinos are most vulnerable, since they use their cell phones more than whites according to a Nielsen study.

“Alright, so one day after learning of a hidden iPhone feature that tracks your every single move, there’s new concern that tracking technology purchased by police can lead to racial profiling,” Roberts said. “You are looking at what’s called the ‘Universal Forensic Extraction Device.’ It can copy the entire content of a cell phone including text messages, contacts, GPS data and do it in just minutes. Michigan State Police purchased this device, though we don’t know how exactly they’re using it but civil liberties groups worry that the device endangers the privacy rights of blacks and Latinos. A Nielsen study shows blacks talk on average twice as much each month on their cell phones as white counterparts.”

David Wilson, founder and managing editor for MSNBC’s explained how the so-called “Universal Forensic Extraction Device” technology works.

“The manufacturer of the device claims they’re currently being used in 60 countries,” Wilson said. “We know that they are compatible with up to 3,000 different cell phone models. So, you know, whether you have an iPhone, whether you have another cell phone, this device works with those phones. It can wipe information or swipe information, even if you deleted your text messages. It can detect that – your e-mails, you know, from your GPS system, Web browser. So, you know, it can pretty much gather a lot of information if you’ve been using the phone over a couple of months.”

And as Wilson explained, minorities are most susceptible to this technology because they’re racially profiled by law enforcement and it is legal based on a California Supreme Court ruling earlier this year.

“Well, look, you know, a lot of African-Americans and Latino-Americans are victims of racial profiling,” Wilson said. “We know that, you know we’re using these phones and are using the devices more frequently. So, this raised a huge issue. California Supreme Court just recently ruled that police officers can swipe or can take information from your cell phones upon arrest. So, we know that just by nature of the fact that we are stopped more, that we’re arrested more, that we’re going to be subject to this sort of technology more.”


Wilson argued the use of this technology deserved scrutiny for that reason.

“Well, I think they’re looking at, look, this is potentially a violation of privacy, right?” he continued. “Police officers need a warrant to go inside your home. There’s no warrant, you know, if you’re looking at the California Supreme Court case – there’s no warrant necessary for this. So a lot of folks are looking at this saying, look, this is something where we need to make a stand here and protect people’s right to privacy.”