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In 2016 a student allowed his phone to be searched, with the intention of looking for evidence of a romantic relationship with his teacher.
The officer who searched his phone connected it to Cellebrite UFED, a software that retrieves deleted messages from the phone. Using Cellebrite UFED, school officials found out that the student was having an affair with his teacher.
While companies like Cellebrite have partnered with federal and local law enforcement for years, the controversial equipment is also available for school district employees to search students’ personal devices.
Cellebrite is a Digital Intelligence company that provides tools that allow organizations to better access, analyze and manage digital data.
Many school districts have Cellebrite devices for the purpose of ‘assisting with student safety, fraud, collision, or conflict of interest’. According to Gizmodo, school and district contracts with Mobile Device Forensic Tools, the likes of Cellebrite, run anywhere form $995 to over $11.5k USD a year. Cellebrite is reportedly on the lower pricing end. MDFT, commonly used in counter-intelligence and anti-terrorism operations, have found in schools a place to help employee misconduct investigators, who are usually able to do so covered by the law as long as there is “reasonable” belief there has been a violation of the law or the school policy.