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Michigan State Police use of an encrypted phone app raises lawmakers' concerns

steve carmody
Michigan Radio

State lawmakers are voicing concern about top Michigan State Police officials use of an app that may circumvent state open records laws.

The Signal app encrypts text messages, and once deleted, those texts cannot be recovered.

During a Senate committee hearing Thursday, an MSP spokesman confirmed many top state police officials have the Signal app on their phones.

Senator Tom Barrett (R-Charlotte) would like to know why.

“If it was for real security focused activities then that would be more understandable,” says Barrett. “But if it’s your top brass and maybe the director and maybe not, it adds to the concern of what it was being used for.”

A state police spokesman says the Michigan State Police are reviewing the use of the Signal app.

But Lt. Matt Williams defended MSP officials' use of the app.

“To use that app to communicate sensitive information securely is important, right? ...We have a duty to protect that data,” Williams told the committee. “At the same time, we have a duty to maintain our transparency by retaining those records and then disposing of them only in accordance with a retention schedule.”

Williams says at this point the app is neither approved nor banned by the MSP. 

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Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.