Government May Now Track You Via Your Mobile Phone

from the wonderful dept

I almost hesitate to post this, because, undoubtedly the comments will take this story and mix it with the other big political controversy you might have read about concerning snooping on people without warrants. If possible, it would be nice if the comments didn’t immediately fall into name calling and political bashing, and instead focused on the issues — but somehow I doubt that will happen. Anyway, recently, the Department of Justice has been doing a bit of jurisdiction shopping in trying to get permission to get access to cell site data without a warrant in order to be able to track people. The first three courts they went to tossed out the request, often trashing the government’s argument with phrases such as: “unsupported,” “misleading,” “contrived,” and a “Hail Mary.” Rather than appeal any of these cases and set a real precedent, the DOJ proceeded to simply file new cases in different locations. Three times in a row the judges tossed the case right out of the courtroom. Unfortunately, it looks like this isn’t a case of three strikes and you’re out. The EFF notes that, despite the first three denials, a new court has given the go ahead, and apparently wasn’t concerned about how this might violate privacy rights. As the EFF notes, there’s no one to appeal this ruling, meaning that there’s now a big legal black hole for future attempts to do the same. Was it really that difficult to go get a search warrant? Update: A good article by Mark Rasch details the issues related to this story.


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Comments on “Government May Now Track You Via Your Mobile Phone”

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22 Comments
Brannen says:

Don't assume privacy

I think as the recent NSA spying on overseas phone calls issue shows – no one should assume anything is private.

If the government isn’t listening & watching then it’s some schmo with a camera on his foot trying to upskirt – or it’s an employer monitoring Internet and email – or its a suspicious spouse who’s hired a private eye – or its stores using “discount cards” to track purchases for datamining – not to mention the soon to be burgeoning RFID tags in everything.

As they all say, if you’re not doing anything wrong then there’s nothing to worry about, right?

As technology advances privacy will decrease … and we can all be more “secure”.

Just because you’re not paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not watching you …

Nittacci says:

Re: Don't assume privacy

Mike, why would you worry about this story being mixed with the larger story of our civil liberties being under attack in the name of “security” or being parcelled off to corporate interests to help them better siphon off middle class wealth? Do you not think the stories are related?
If these comments don’t start to reflect some outrage, then it means people aren’t paying attention.

Skippy McDougall says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Paranoid? Get a Samsung phone

This is by far the dumbest thing I’ve heard in this thread so far. The gov’t doesn’t need to use LBS (Location Based Services) which broadcasts where you are to find you. All they need are 3 or more cell towers to triangulate your position. If your cell phone is on, they can track the location.

Neamerjell says:

No need to put foil on your head...

Why be worried about the feds watching you? Who really cares if the feds want to know the latest insignificant goings on of the average American? Everybody is so ramped up about privacy! I don’t really care because I don’t plan on doing anything that I would mind someone else knowing about. Granted, I would be hesitant to give sensitive information over a “bugged” line, but the government already knows everything about my finances anyway (I send them an annual report known as a tax form every April!) Also, who really thinks that the feds actually have the resources to store masses of information about millions of people. We’re talking EXABYTES of information here!!!(1 Exabyte = 1 billion Gigabytes) This alone makes it extremely unlikely that the feds would engage in such activity.

The only reason some people get lost in thought is because it’s unfamiliar territory. – Paul Fix

Y Pennog Coch (profile) says:

Re: No need to put foil on your head...

> Also, who really thinks that the feds
> actually have the resources to store
> masses of information about millions
> of people. We’re talking EXABYTES of
> information here!!!

Think of the data-gathering in this decade as a dry run. If Moore’s Law keeps on going, those Exabytes will become manageable, and sooner not later. Astronomers already handle thousands of gigabytes of telescope data, and they don’t have the Feds’ budget.

No Name says:

Re: One must remember...

?That in many cases, privacy is not a right. We are not entitled to privacy, it is a privilege?..

Uuuhhh? Excuse me ? where in the $#@^% Did you get that from?

Try reading the Constitution:

Amendment IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Amendment IX

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Amendment X

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

The Founding documents are a restaint upon the power of government, and unless we stupidly hand over these rights to the government, WE retain them, including the right to privacy.

No Name says:

Re: One must remember... (formated)

?That in many cases, privacy is not a right. We are not entitled to privacy, it is a privilege?..
Uuuhhh? Excuse me ? where in the $#@^% Did you get that from?
Try reading the Constitution:
Amendment IV
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Amendment IX
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
Amendment X
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

The Founding documents are a restaint upon the power of government, and unless we stupidly hand over these rights to the government, WE retain them, including the right to privacy.

Dustin says:

Re: Re: One must remember... (formated)

Although I agree with “unless we stupidly hand over these rights to the government, WE retain them, including the right to privacy”… as supported by the 9th & 10th Amendments, I don’t see how the 4th applies to any sort of “privacy” rights.

I am certainly secure in my person, house, papers, etc… whether someone is listening to my conversation or not. You come breaking down my door, taking my “papers”, and threatening my person without proper warrants and probable cause, well… you’re going to have to cope with my 2nd Amendment rights!

Let throw this out there though: If I’m outside talking on my mobile phone, and the government is “listening” to me using a super sensitive spy satellite, are my rights being violated? I would think not, since I’m in a public space. Therefore I generally view anything that leaves my body (sorry), including my own free speech, as being in the public domain. If you want it kept private, you should keep it to yourself!

That being said, some “papers” that I certainly would like kept private (whether they are in my posession or not), are all of my personal medical records. I’m WAY more concerned about the privacy of that information, than I am about any phone calls that I ever make!

eskayp says:

Re: Re: Re: One must remember... (formated)

“…If I’m outside talking on my mobile phone, and the government is “listening” to me using a super sensitive spy satellite, are my rights being violated?…”
Judging by too many cellphone talkers, the government will be the last to know.
Before the spysat can bounce that signal, everybody else around the cellphone talker at the theater, restaurant, or store
is already intimately aquainted with all the sordid details of their overly loud conversation.
Some cellphone users don’t broadcast in the RF spectrum alone.
And it doesn’t take any electronics to triangulate their location.

okwhen (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Search and seizure without a warrant and without p

The problem is not simply listing to you. The problem is using the conversation and tracking information as evidence. Under the Patriot Act section 213, revokes your privacy of private papers. Giving up our right is not the answer and not a fix all. Our government cannot seem to stop simple virus over the internet. Now what good is it in listing to millions of phone calls? Have you considered all the chat rooms and blogs? I think the post by eskayp is in some king of code.

amasa says:

i think you're all missing the real issue here

The day is coming where we’re all tracked, either through rigorous data mining (purchase made here, cell call initiated there, biometric access granted there) or ‘real time’ tracking (like a wireless device that constantly beacons your whereabouts). Think of it like patch management and the classic argument of ‘agented’ vs. ‘agentless’, for the more tech savvy of you out there.
The *real* issue, is that the govt is figuring out how to use their own process and procedure against itself (ie, hacking) by going to multiple courts to shop for answers. If the govt has realized that there are multiple authority granting entities, and that the path to their desired process can be obstacled and navigated with a ‘path of least resistance’ then that is the true problem. Moaning about cell tracking is moot, back when North America used AMPS it could be done with 3 scanners and a smart operator. Believe me 😉

Max says:

Is the real issue "Privacy" or "Trust"?

Honestly, we have no problems turning over private information to people or organizations that we trust. The problem with public vs private with the government is that we do not trust the government.The fact that the government went “shopping” for a judge that would allow tracking without a warrant is what bothers me. Most lawsuits eventually get settled due to “precendence.” Why didn’t this judge check the precedent of not allowing tracking?

Howard Plumley (profile) says:

Royal perogative

The President declares a secret war on american citizens by fiat. The Justice department has received 18 thousand plus wiretap warrants from the ‘secret’ court (only 4 refusals in 5 years). So who did he want to spy on with no paper trail?
What is it with the republicans and the presumption of ‘royal privilege’. Midnight deals in Congress to extend the ‘Patriot Act’ for six month in hope we will forget and they can make it permanent. Keep your eyes open, they would smother liberty to win that next election.

Joshua says:

What's so bad

you all need to remember this tecnology is being used to protect us. what if you were kidnaped and you had your mobile phone hidden in your pocket and they didn’t find it, this would enable the police easily find and save you, the only role orf the government is to look out for us and the only thing they are doing it keeping us safe. If you have done nothing wrong and are not involved in anything you shouldn’t they will never track you or “spy” on your personal life. though if you have done something wrong this gives police the ability to stop you and save people that may be in harms way around you, this will make terrorist living in our country have a harder time staying under the radar and avoiding police as if they have info and contact info they can monitor them. We shouldn’t be fighting a system that is only here to help protect us. if you don’t want this tec and you feel violated go live in some terrorist country and see how you like being attacked everyday. you can say how bad the government is and what it’s doing but they are the organisation that are protecting you

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