May, 2021

A recent article noted that the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) purchased five “vehicle forensic kits” from a Swedish data extraction firm, MSAB. The device, called an “iVe,” is manufactured by an American company, Berla, and allows for the user to extract data from a vehicle relating to use of the vehicle but also allows the user to extract data from mobile devices that paired with the vehicle. That is, when a person’s smartphone syncs to a vehicle, the data from the phone is collected and can be retrieved from the vehicle with an iVe.

MSAB stated that the device can collect data of “recent destinations, favorite locations, call logs, contact lists, SMS messages, emails, pictures, videos, social media feeds, and the navigation history” of the vehicle, as well as information about when the lights were turned on, when car doors were opened and closed, speed logs, and other things.

Berla’s founder, Ben LeMere, said in a 2015 podcast that when a person plugs their phone into a USB port in the car to charge the phone, data from the phone is then transferred to the car. Mr. LeMere also described an example of how one vehicle, a Ford Explorer rental at the BWI Marshall Airport, when examined provided data from 70 phones that had connected to it; included among the data collected were call logs, contacts, SMS history (“… it’s quite comical when you sit back and read some of the text messages”), musical preferences, and some social media information.

Critics cite privacy issues as concerns. For example, Muhammad Taksar, an attorney with the ACLU of Southern California, was quoted as saying the law is not settled in this area, and the CBP could be “exploiting the lack of legal coverage to get at information that otherwise would be protected by a warrant [requirement].”

Sources: Sam Biddle, “Your Car is Spying on You, and a CBP Contract Shows the Risks,”, May 3, 2021:

by Neil Leithauser
Associate Editor