Tag Archives: cell phone data

Uproar After Congress Sneaks Attack on Digital Privacy Rights Into Omnibus Spending Bill

Attaching it to massive spending deal, lawmakers rush through controversial bill that allows law enforcement to hand over personal data without a warrant

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 3-22-2018

Critics of the CLOUD Act ” are rightfully pointing out that it jettisons current human rights protections in favor of vague standards that could gut individual rights.” (Photo: Electoric Frontier Foundation)

Buried in the 2,232-page omnibus spending bill that the U.S. House passed Thursday is a piece of legislation that digital privacy advocates warn “expands American and foreign law enforcement’s ability to target and access people’s data across international borders.”

The Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data or CLOUD Act (S. 2383 and H.R. 4943) would add an official provision for U.S. law enforcement to access “the contents of a wire or electronic communication and any record or other information” for people all across the globe, regardless of where they live and what that nation’s privacy laws dictate. It would also create a “backdoor” into Americans’ data, enabling the U.S. government to bypass its citizens’ Fourth Amendment rights to access and even use their data. Continue reading

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The StingRay Spy Device Is Exactly Why the 4th Amendment Was Written

At least 68 agencies in 23 different states own StingRays.

By Olivia Donaldson

Photo: The Desk

Imagine you are in the middle of your typical day-to-day activities. Maybe you are driving, spending time with family, or working. If you are like most people, your phone is at your side on a daily basis. Little do you know that, at any time, police and law enforcement could be looking at information stored on your phone. You haven’t done anything wrong. You haven’t been asked for permission. You aren’t suspected of any crime.

The StingRay

Police have the power to collect your location along with the numbers of your incoming and outgoing calls and intercept the content of call and text communication. They can do all of this without you ever knowing about it.

How? They use a shoebox-sized device called a StingRay. This device (also called an IMSI catcher) mimics cell phone towers, prompting all the phones in the area to connect to it even if the phones aren’t in use.

The police use StingRays to track down and implicate perpetrators of mainly domestic crimes. The devices can be mounted in vehicles, drones, helicopters, and airplanes, allowing police to gain highly specific information on the location of any particular phone, down to a particular apartment complex or hotel room.

Quietly, StingRay use is growing throughout local and federal law enforcement with little to no oversight. The ACLU has discovered that at least 68 agencies in 23 different states own StingRays, but says that this “dramatically underrepresents the actual use of StingRays by law enforcement agencies nationwide.”

The Violation

Information from potentially thousands of phones is being collected every time a StingRay is used. Signals are sent into the homes, bags, and pockets of innocent individuals. The Electronic Frontier Foundation likens this to the Pre-Revolutionary War practice of soldiers going door-to-door, searching without suspicion.

Richard Tynan, a technologist with Privacy International notes that, “there really isn’t any place for innocent people to hide from a device such as this.”

The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution states that, “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.”

The StingRay clearly violates these standards. The drafters of the Constitution recognized that restricting the government from violating privacy is essential for a free society. That’s why the Fourth Amendment exists. The StingRay is creating a dangerous precedent that tells the government that it’s okay for them to violate our rights. Because of this, freedom is quietly slipping out the window.

Little Regulation

Law Enforcement is using StingRays without a warrant in most cases. For example, the San Bernardino Police Department used their StingRay 300 times without a warrant in a little over a year.

In 2010, the Tallahassee Police Department used a StingRay in a warrantless search to track down the suspect of a crime. A testimony from an unsealed hearing transcript talks about how police went about finding their target. The ACLU sums it up well:

“Police drove through the area using the vehicle-based device until they found the apartment complex in which the target phone was located, and then they walked around with the handheld device and stood ‘at every door and every window in that complex’ until they figured out which apartment the phone was located in. In other words, police were lurking outside people’s windows and sending powerful electronic signals into their private homes in order to collect information from within.”

A handful of states have passed laws requiring police and federal agents to get a warrant before using a StingRay. They must show probable cause for one of the thousands of phones that they are actually searching. This is far from enough.

Additionally, there are many concerns that agents are withholding information from federal judges to monitor subjects without approval – bypassing the probable cause standard laid out in the Constitution. They even go as far as to let criminals go to avoid disclosing information about these devices to the courts.

If the public doesn’t become aware of this issue, the police will continue to use StingRays to infringe on our rights in secret and with impunity.

Olivia Donaldson

Olivia Donaldson

Olivia Donaldson is a recent high school graduate that is currently opting out of college and participating in an entrepreneurial program called Praxis.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

Editorial note: If you’d like to read about the current use of StingRays by the Trump administration, we ran an article on the subject back in May.

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Future of Free Speech at Risk as Supreme Court Hears Critical Digital Privacy Case

“No constitutional doctrine should presume that consumers assume the risk of warrantless government surveillance simply by using technologies that are increasingly integrated into modern life.”

By Julia Conley, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 11-29-2017

In a Supreme Court case beginning Wednesday, the ACLU is arguing that Americans should not be expected to give up privacy rights every time they use a cell phone that pings phone towers nearby, as analog-era legal arguments would hold. (Photo: Mike Mozart/Flickr/cc)

The Supreme Court will hear the first arguments in a landmark case regarding digital privacy rights on Wednesday as civil liberties advocates, joined by tech companies and journalists, argue the court must acknowledge that privacy rights and free speech protections should align with the reality of 21st century technology.

The case, known as Carpenter vs. United States centers around Timothy Carpenter, who was convicted in 2011 of several robberies after the police, without a probable cause warrant, gathered data from his cell phone company. Months of records were turned over, showing that he had been near cell towers close to the sites of the robberies when they took place. Continue reading

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Trump Quietly Nominates Mass Surveillance Advocate To “Protect” Your Privacy Rights

By Carey Wedler. Published 9-1-2017 by The Anti-Media

 

Though outrage over mass surveillance swept the United States after Edward Snowden’s revelations in 2013, there is little discussion of these invasive practices just four years later

This apathy comes despite former President Barack Obama’s move to expand to information sharing between agencies just days before Trump took office and after the Trump administration signaled its desire to continue widespread surveillance.

Amid this lack of attention toward the NSA, the president recently nominated a staunch advocate of mass surveillance to chair one of the few barriers standing between intrusive government spying and the American people’s privacy. The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) was created in 2004 at the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission and was intended “to help the executive branch balance national security priorities with individual rights,” the Intercept reported earlier this year. Continue reading

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Trump Admin. Now Deploying Controversial Surveillance Tool in Immigration Crackdown

Detroit News reports on “troubling” use of Stingrays in hunt for undocumented immigrant

By Andrea Germanos, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 5-20-2017

Federal investigators’ use of Stingrays to hunt for an undocumented immigration marks “the latest sign of mission creep in domestic deployment of battlefield-strength surveillance technology,” said EFF’s Adam Schwartz. (Photo: Håkan Dahlström/flickr/cc)

As the Trump administration and Congressional Republicans continue to push for a harsher immigration crackdown, new reporting reveals that FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents employed a controversial surveillance technology known as Stingrays to hunt down undocumented immigrants.

According to Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Adam Schwartz, the The Detroit News report, based on a federal search warrant affidavit, marks “the latest sign of mission creep in domestic deployment of battlefield-strength surveillance technology.” Continue reading

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‘Terrifying’: AT&T Spying on Americans for Profit, New Documents Reveal

‘If companies are allowed to operate in this manner without repercussions, our democracy has no future’

By Nadia Prupis, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 10-25-2016

Project Hemisphere allowed agencies to conduct warrantless searches of trillions of call records and other cellular data—such as "where a target is located, with whom he speaks, and potentially why." (Photo: Har Gobind Singh Khalsa/flickr/cc)

Project Hemisphere allowed agencies to conduct warrantless searches of trillions of call records and other cellular data—such as “where a target is located, with whom he speaks, and potentially why.” (Photo: Har Gobind Singh Khalsa/flickr/cc)

Telecommunications giant AT&T is spying on Americans for profit and helped law enforcement agencies investigate everything from the so-called war on drugs to Medicaid fraud—all at taxpayers’ expense, according to new reporting by The Daily Beast.

The program, known as Project Hemisphere, allowed state and local agencies to conduct warrantless searches of trillions of call records and other cellular data—such as “where a target is located, with whom he speaks, and potentially why”—for a massive range of investigations, the Beast‘s Kenneth Lipp reports. In one case examined by the news outlet, a sheriff’s office in Victorville, California used Hemisphere to track down a homicide suspect. Continue reading

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Abu Dhabi announces launch of Israeli-installed mass surveillance system

The Internet of Things applies unique identifiers to objects, people to be followed, and provides large amounts of data on all aspects of an individual’s movements and activities based on the surveillance equipment used.

By Rori Donaghy. Published 7-15-2016 by openDemocracy

Astronaut photo of Abu Dhabi on the Persian Gulf, taken from the International Space Station, 2011. Photo: NASA via Wikimedia Commons

Astronaut photo of Abu Dhabi on the Persian Gulf, taken from the International Space Station, 2011. Photo: NASA via Wikimedia Commons

Authorities in Abu Dhabi announced on Wednesday the launch of an emirate-wide surveillance system, which Middle East Eye previously revealed was installed by an Israeli-owned security company.

The Abu Dhabi Monitoring and Control Centre (ADMCC) said the new Falcon Eye surveillance system “links thousands of cameras spread across the city, as well as thousands of other cameras installed at facilities and buildings in the emirate”. Continue reading

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‘Quite Disturbing’: Leaked Docs Reveal How Easily FBI Can Spy on Journalists

‘The other major question here is: why are these rules secret in the first place?’

By Deirdre Fulton, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 7-1-2016

Leaked document shows the FBI does not have to jump through a lot of hoops to get access to journalists' call data. (Photo: Roger H. Goun/flickr/cc)

Leaked document shows the FBI does not have to jump through a lot of hoops to get access to journalists’ call data. (Photo: Roger H. Goun/flickr/cc)

Newly leaked documents published by The Intercept expose just how easy it is for the FBI to spy on journalists using so-called National Security Letters (NSLs).

The classified rules, which had previously been released only in heavily redacted form, “show that the FBI imposes few constraints on itself when it bypasses the requirement to go to court and obtain subpoenas or search warrants before accessing journalists’ information,” The Intercept‘s Cora Currier wrote on Thursday. Continue reading

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Three Years After Snowden, Bipartisan Coalition Demands Congress End Warrantless Spying

“The Snowden leaks caused a sea change in the policy landscape related to surveillance,” writes watchdog, from the recent passage of the USA Freedom Act to the coming showdown in Congress over Section 702.

By Lauren McCauley, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 6-6-2016

"There can be no renewal of Section 702 unless warrantless surveillance of Americans’ private lives is stopped," declared bipartisan coalition End702. (Photo: Gage Skidmore/cc/flickr)

“There can be no renewal of Section 702 unless warrantless surveillance of Americans’ private lives is stopped,” declared bipartisan coalition End702. (Photo: Gage Skidmore/cc/flickr)

Three years ago on Monday, the world was shattered by news that the United States was conducting sweeping, warrantless surveillance of people, heads of state, and organizations across the globe.

To mark the anniversary of those revelations, brought forth by a then-unknown contractor working for the National Security Administration (NSA), a coalition of public interest groups have launched a new campaign fighting for the expiration of the law that the government claims authorizes its mass spying. Continue reading

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Disregarding Privacy, Court Rules Common Cell Surveillance Method is Legal

The court rejected an argument that collecting phone location data without a warrant violates the Fourth Amendment

By Nadia Prupis, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 4-14-2016

The panel referred to a 1979 ruling in which the U.S. Supreme Court held that the numbers dialed on a landline are not protected by the Fourth Amendment because the caller willingly gives that data to phone companies. (Photo: Graeme Peterson/flickr/cc)

The panel referred to a 1979 ruling in which the U.S. Supreme Court held that the numbers dialed on a landline are not protected by the Fourth Amendment because the caller willingly gives that data to phone companies. (Photo: Graeme Peterson/flickr/cc)

In a show of “complete disregard” for privacy, a federal appellate court on Wednesday ruled that the warrantless collection of cell phone location data is constitutional.

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in United States v. Carpenter that law enforcement can legally request cell site location information (CSLI) without a warrant on the grounds that routing data, which is not as accurate as GPS coordinates, is not protected under the Fourth Amendment.

But as Jennifer Lynch, senior staff attorney with the digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation, wrote in a blog post responding to the ruling, “The opinion shows a complete disregard for the sensitive and revealing nature of [CSLI] and a misguided response to the differences between the analog technologies addressed in old cases and the data-rich technologies of today.” Continue reading

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