White House Says Feds Should Have Unfettered Access To Mobile Phone Location Info

from the *sigh* dept

Many civil libertarians were hopeful that the Obama administration would be a lot more reasonable on certain issues, like warrantless wiretapping and surveillance of Americans. So far, that hasn't really been the case. The new administration has already sided with the old on the legality of warrantless wiretapping, and is now saying that it shouldn't need a warrant to demand location records from mobile phone providers. This certainly seems like the sort of private info that, under the 4th Amendment, would require a warrant, but not according to the administration(s). It feels that mobile phone providers should freely hand over records of what mobile phone tower any phone was connected to, even without the administration bothering to get a warrant (i.e., whenever and for whomever it wants to keep tabs on). This is tremendously problematic if you believe in the basic principles of the 4th Amendment. The EFF and the ACLU have asked a court to stop this practice, and it's rather disappointing that the administration is pushing in the other direction.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Running Man, Mar 18th, 2009 @ 5:42pm

    What the hell

    What's next - make it mandatory that you carry and leave the cell on at all times?

    BS.

    Wont be too long before everyone is fitted with an under the skin GPS device, or better yet - an explosive collar

     

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  2.  
    identicon
    Your Gawd and Master, Mar 18th, 2009 @ 5:44pm

    Why I don't vote...

    Cause they ALL promise Change but what we get is a change of faces with the exact same policies, etc. No surprises. Business as usual.

     

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  3.  
    identicon
    Dreamcaster, Mar 18th, 2009 @ 5:48pm

    What else...?

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    Viking, Mar 18th, 2009 @ 5:51pm

    Spam spam spam spam

    Well, it is a matter of national security that we know who you are and where you are so that your cell phone can be spammed with all the latest ads.

    "I see you are near our Starbucks - Come on in and we will treat you to a Grande Mocha Blah Blah"

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 18th, 2009 @ 5:51pm

    I say ok

    I trust the Obama administration to use this practice in moderation. What I would like to see is a confidential record to be kept of every citizen and number warrant(lessly) wiretapped, with a FOIA type expiration date to be unsealed when requested years later. Obama already seems conscious of his legacy, and might thus seek to limit the number of false-positive wiretaps.

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 18th, 2009 @ 5:55pm

    Our founding fathers would shit a brick to see what has become of this country and our freedom.

     

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  7.  
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    Willton, Mar 18th, 2009 @ 6:03pm

    Re: I say ok

    Obama already seems conscious of his legacy, and might thus seek to limit the number of false-positive wiretaps.

    We already have a legal procedure in place to address that concern: it's called "obtaining a warrant."

     

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  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 18th, 2009 @ 6:04pm

    Ok - Cool !

    Lets publish the where-abouts of everyone on a website.
    Then you could spell out stuff while driving around.
    Most excellent!!!

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    Dreamcaster, Mar 18th, 2009 @ 6:04pm

    What else...?

    The Government can demand all they want. Just remember that the power is ultimately in the hands of the people. We are millions and they are a couple hundred. We have forgotten that we LET these people run our lives.

    What else do they think they can demand from us? "Big Brother" will always want an eye everywhere for "Total safety and security." But where do we draw the line? When do we as a people tell the Government that they no longer have the authority to pass such legislature without our permission?

    This whole country has gone to shit and we need to fix it as a people and stop relying only on the Government to fix it for us. Yes, that's what they're here for, but the more power we give them, the more power they'll take.

     

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  10.  
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    Nelson Cruz, Mar 18th, 2009 @ 6:05pm

    You have to admit cell phone location info can be very useful information for law enforcement, and in some cases it can be time sensitive and therefore impractical to ask for a warrant first (a kidnapping for example). So, allowing the warrant to be filed after the fact (in time sensitive situations) would be reasonable. But warrantless access to this info could lead to real time monitoring of millions of people in the near future.

    The moment president Obama finds out that someone at the NSA is tracking his daughters or his wife through their cell phones, he'll change his mind pretty quick. Similar things have happened here in Portugal and in Italy. Governments approved relaxed rules for phone tapping and the jailing of defendants while waiting trial, but then rushed to limit it when it was actually used on public officials and politicians.

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 18th, 2009 @ 6:11pm

    Re:

    "cell phone location info can be very useful information"

    for car insurance companies .... so they can charge you more

    "The moment president Obama finds out that someone"

    There will be a list of those not to be tracked

     

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  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 18th, 2009 @ 6:14pm

    Re: I say ok

    Obama already seems conscious of his legacy,...

    I'm starting to think his legacy is going to be remembered as the administration that took the office of the Presidency to new heights of dishonesty and corruption. He's just getting warmed up.

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 18th, 2009 @ 6:22pm

    Re: Re: I say ok

    "'m starting to think his legacy is going to be remembered as the administration that took the office of the Presidency to new heights of dishonesty and corruption. He's just getting warmed up."

    Do you really think He can out do his predecessors ?

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 18th, 2009 @ 6:39pm

    Re: Re:

    There will be a list of those not to be tracked

    It always amazes me that some people don't seem to realize that.

     

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  15.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 18th, 2009 @ 6:45pm

    Re:

    So, allowing the warrant to be filed after the fact (in time sensitive situations) would be reasonable.
    Sort of like what the FISA court can already approve?

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 18th, 2009 @ 6:46pm

    Re: Re: Re: I say ok

    Do you really think He can out do his predecessors ?

    He can try, and he's getting off to a good start.

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 18th, 2009 @ 7:00pm

    Re: What else...?

    "We are millions and they are a couple hundred."

    They are a lot more than that. And they are well armed.

    "We have forgotten that we LET these people run our lives."

    We LET them because they force us. I'm far more afraid of them than I am of Al Queda. So i just keep my head down and try not to draw their attention.

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    Comboman, Mar 18th, 2009 @ 7:43pm

    Re:

    The moment president Obama finds out that someone at the NSA is tracking his daughters or his wife through their cell phones, he'll change his mind pretty quick.

    The President, his wife and daughters are protected by the secret service. They know where they are at all times, with or without a cell phone.

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    jonnyq, Mar 18th, 2009 @ 8:11pm

    Re: I say ok

    "I trust the Obama administration to use this practice in moderation"

    That's your first mistake.

     

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  20.  
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    FLguy, Mar 18th, 2009 @ 8:28pm

    Re: I say ok

    You trust the Obama administration to use this practice in moderation?? Are you serious? So were you ok when the Bush administration started down this path or did you get all ruffled over that? And if that bothered you it's now ok since Obama is doing it?

    I never have really trusted anything that comes out of a mouth in DC, and this administration certainly isn't helping thus far.

     

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  21.  
    icon
    Cap'n Jack (profile), Mar 18th, 2009 @ 11:07pm

    On the one hand, I'm glad McCain didn't win. On the other hand, I'm beginning to think it's almost the same shit, different race.

    But how much change can one man really make? If he comes through on a quarter of his promises many, many promises, I think I'll be impresseed.

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    Joe Shmo, Mar 19th, 2009 @ 5:12am

    This is getting redonkulous

    You blind followers of Hussien never seize to amaze me. Almost every single person he has appointed to office has been crooked in some way. Yet you trust him with this issue, which outraged you when it was the Bush admin? McCain wanted to tax health care benefiets which was horrible, now Obama wants to do the same and its a good idea right? If you think Bush was 1/4th as crooked as Obama, then you are either retarded, or need to stop watching CNN.
    @Cap'n Jack, how much can one man do? I dont know, execute 10 times the normal amount of executive orders as any president in history by his 3rd month. Spend 10 trillion dollars by his third month. Pass any bill he wants with the current officials in office in the Senate and House.
    This is a Stalinist dictatorship, if you think you weren't safe 4 months ago, hold on to your ass now.

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    Mike Raphone, Mar 19th, 2009 @ 6:30am

    Snoop on the opposition.

    I guess the current administration wants to pull an Elliot Spitzer on all Americans. Snoop on the opposition and then find a means to destroy their reputation. How long will it take for the Government to require all citizens or persons visiting the Unites States to have a tracking device implanted. I do not want to seem like a Luddite but I see some technology as privacy's enemy.

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 19th, 2009 @ 6:37am

    Re:

    So, allowing the warrant to be filed after the fact (in time sensitive situations) would be reasonable.
    That already exists.

    But warrantless access to this info could lead to real time monitoring of millions of people in the near future.
    Which is exactly what any sane person does NOT want. If you think real-time monitoring of people is a good thing I have a little book I want you to read, it is called Nineteen Eighty-Four.

    The moment president Obama finds out that someone at the NSA is tracking his daughters or his wife through their cell phones, he'll change his mind pretty quick. Similar things have happened here in Portugal and in Italy. Governments approved relaxed rules for phone tapping and the jailing of defendants while waiting trial, but then rushed to limit it when it was actually used on public officials and politicians.
    You don't seem that familiar with the way laws work in america. here, they take for bloody ever to get rid of laws that everyone hates (prohibition) and even ignoring that point laws should not be made in a style of throwing everything to see what sticks and then repeal it if it doesn't. Not to mention that it is a major violation of our constitution, you may have heard of it, it is a piece of paper that used to mean something here.

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    :Lobo Santo, Mar 19th, 2009 @ 7:26am

    El Presidente!

    Isn't it the president's job to be a puppet figure-head who distracts the sheeple from those actually in power?

     

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  26.  
    icon
    TX CHL Instructor (profile), Mar 19th, 2009 @ 7:28am

    Re: I say ok

    OMG. I hope this is just sarcasm (Poe?!?), and not just cluelessness.
    --
    www.chl-tx.com Thanks BHO, for the tremendous boost you have given my business.

     

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  27.  
    identicon
    pmp888, Mar 19th, 2009 @ 7:41am

    Aw, come on Mike, you're smarter than this - it may "seem" like the sort of information the 4thAm would require a warrant to obtain, but you don't need to exaggerate what's actually being argued here. While it's worth debating what the proper standard should be for getting cell phone location data (whether it be tower info, or much more precise GPS information) from a mobile provider, the question of whether the 4th Amendment protects this information from disclosure without a warrant is different (and many courts over the years have held it doesn't). Looking at the "bumper beeper" cases, they don't find 4thAm interests implicated where the tracking is in public space; tower info is so imprecise that it really can't pinpoint your location in private areas. There's also a long line of cases finding that the 4thAm generally doesn't prohibit disclosure of information you've either handed over to third parties, or which was generated by the third party about you. Finally, it's worth noting that the issue here isn't between requiring a search warrant and having no standards, but rather, whether some other type of court order will suffice to obtain these records.

    I don't mean to suggest that it's not worth debating what the standards ought to be for getting this information - it is - but then perhaps it would be worth a longer Techdirt post explaining why this information ought to be given greater protection than it has in the past.

     

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  28.  
    identicon
    Ann, Mar 19th, 2009 @ 4:19pm

    Re: What the hell

    Actually, it will probably get much, much worse. Taking a cue from states such as Oregon, the feds are looking at mandating GPS be installed on all vehicles, ostensibly to provide information for a new road tax--the Dept. of Transportation is running a road user study with participants allowing GPS units that are monitored by the government to be installed in their vehicles. (Don't exprect the gasoline tax to go away either once a new road tax is imposed.) An added benefit will be that the government will have yet more ways of tracking you, if they so desire.

     

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  29.  
    icon
    Nelson Cruz (profile), Mar 19th, 2009 @ 6:00pm

    Re: Re:

    Anonymous Coward, that was exactly my point. This info should be available to law enforcement on a limited case by case basis, just like wiretapping. If unfettered access is granted it will lead to mass surveillance, which would be bad. I am familiar with 1984. I haven't read it, but have been meaning to for a long time.

    I'm also familiar with (and actually read :)) the US Constitution, and I totally agree with you. My point was, if Obama or anyone in government right now, is for unfettered surveillance via cell phones, they will likely change their minds when it gets abused - J. Edgar Hoover style - against them. This isn't an excuse to let them approve these laws, but rather something they should be reminded off, so they don't.

    Now that I think about it, a J. Edgar Hoover type scandal would be good for the US and the world right now. To stop all these ideas of unfettered surveillance and security above everything.

     

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  30.  
    identicon
    dave, Mar 20th, 2009 @ 9:45am

    Re: What the hell

    actually, thats exactly what those under-the-skin RFID tags are being developed for....they want them to be MANDATORY so they can track your info, your location, where you go, what you do, who you talk to, and most importantly, what you spend your money on as all transactions would be logged via the chip. no surprise that media outlets like FOX seem to think that this is a "good" idea...

     

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  31.  
    identicon
    Fred, Mar 20th, 2009 @ 4:43pm

    Big Bro-ther is in the House!

    Tis no surprise here. The left claimed to have the moral high ground on privacy, but indeed, they are actually more interested in your business than W ever cared to be.

    How else can they seize more of what you earn, if they can't electronically track you?

    F'r instance, "use tax" on out of state purchases is only viable when there is an electronic audit trail for the tax board to use against the buyer. Try collecting that $.85 on paper, but collect that $85.00 over 100 purchases for the year, add on fines, and you've got a huge revenue source for spreading the wealth around. Isn't it convenient that Ebay now mandates Paypal? No more off-the-books income for the masses.

    With GPS tracking, not only will it become easier for the state to assess virtual child support payments (an automatic lien on your person at 18% interest), but to establish state of residence (the better to tax you with) and trump you up on newly invented interstate commerce violations. Oh yes, they're coming. Imagine the cigarette cartons with RFID chips embedded...

    Sure, it sounds paranoid. But we've come from a place where smoking was permitted everywhere, to a society where plastic bags are banned, dogs are lo-jacked, indian mascots and coke machines are evicted from school campuses, law enforcement officers lose their jobs ex-post-facto over misdemeanor domestic battery, and MSNBC can act as judge, jury and executioner for thought crimes.

    Its only a matter of time before they come for you.

     

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