With all the reports lately about mobile devices tracking people's whereabouts, Congress (of course) sprung into action to hold
hearings about protecting privacy on mobile devices. The official title of the hearing
was: "Protecting Mobile Privacy: Your Smartphones, Tablets, Cell Phones and Your Privacy." So, it would be natural to expect that most people would talk about protecting privacy on mobile devices. However, one participant went in the opposite direction. Jason Weinstein, the deputy assistant attorney general for the criminal division, decided that the answer to protecting mobile privacy was to make sure there's less mobile privacy
... as far as government snoops are concerned.
That is, he used the hearings to suggest a new Justice Department proposal that would require mobile phone operators to collect even more data from their customers than they do already. Yeah, this seems to be the exact opposite of the point of this particular discussion. Of course, our own Derek Kerton has been making this point
repeatedly in our comments in the various discussions about Apple and Google tracking locations... and the government grandstanding about it: the government requires
that mobile operators track much of this data. And what Weinstein was pitching was that they should track even more of it.
Of course, Weinstein uses the same old excuse for why everyone should have less privacy -- to make his job easier:
Weinstein said, "when this information is not stored, it may be impossible for law enforcement to collect essential evidence.... Many wireless providers do not retain records that would enable law enforcement to identify a suspect's smartphone based on the IP addresses collected by Web sites that the suspect visited."
But, of course, that totally misses the point. We have protections from
government for a reason. There is no right for law enforcement's job to be easy. In fact, the rights go in the other direction. Individuals have a right of privacy from the government because we, as a society, supposedly decided that such rights were more important than an all-powerful government. That's what we thought the 4th Amendment was about, but I understand that's been excised from the document lately...