cell phone

11th Circuit: The Location of Your Cell Phone Isn’t Private


You know how Google, Apple, and Microsoft store your phone’s location history to help with searches and app interactivity? Well, a federal appeals court just ruled that none of that information is actually yours and you have no expectation of privacy from it, so courts don’t need a warrant to get it.

“Cell tower location records do not contain private communications of the subscriber,” the court said in its ruling. “This type of non-content evidence, lawfully created by a third-party telephone company . . . does not belong to Davis, even if it concerns him. . . . Davis has no subjective or objective reasonable expectation of privacy in [the phone company’s] business records showing the cell tower locations that wirelessly connected his calls at or near the time of six of the seven robberies.”

This is an obscene and invidious ruling that has enormous implications for yes, your actual privacy. If the cell tower location data that shows where your phone is can from now on be acquired without a warrant, then your physical location is always within reach of government agents.

Nevermind that your phone has layers and layers of privacy settings that keep your GPS and other location data off the grid. Triangulating cell tower data can be just as useful and is now more accessible to the government than it is to you.

As an example of the lengths Google’s Android Lollipop system goes to allow you to protect your location data, the following are screenshots from my phone.


NSA tracks cellphone location data around the globe

After The Guardian reported that only 1 percent of the files leaked by Edward Snowden have been published, the Washington Post reported that the NSA also tracks location data from mobile phone users around the world, allowing the agency to gather “nearly 5 billion records a day.”

The NSA is able to do that because it manages to tap into the mobile networks’ cables that happen to serve worldwide cellphones as well as U.S. phones. The NSA does that to collect information regarding its targets.

With this data in its power, the NSA locates and analyzes data from cellphones anywhere in the world. This represents an effort that might have no matching historical precedent since analysts can use this data to retrace cellphones’ movements and uncover potential relationships among users anywhere.

Elements of the intelligence community are not collecting the bulk cellphone location data intentionally, according to Robert Litt, the general counsel for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which oversees the NSA. But the NSA collects this information anyway, mainly because one of the agency’s most powerful analytic tools, the CO-TRAVELER, can search unknown associates of intelligence targets by tracing intersecting cellphones.

15 Year Old Girl Faces Sex Offender Status for the Next 20 Years

According to Ohio state law, convicted child pornographers are required to carry a Tier 2 sexual offender classification, requiring registration as a sex offender for twenty years. In this case, a teen girl from Licking Valley High School is charged with illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material, a second-degree felony; and possession of criminal tools, a fifth-degree felony.

In case you made it this far without passing judgment on “yet another child pornographer,” the girl charged is fifteen years old, her “criminal tool” was a cell phone and MMS (multimedia messaging service). Her “illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material” were nude photos of herself. Putting those together, you can deduce that she took nude photos of herself with her cell phone. The Licking County prosecutor, Ken Oswalt, has received reports of 20 similar cases among school age teens, and he has been traveling to the area schools with an assembly program that discusses the consequences of such actions.

While the teen girl who sent these nude pictures of herself to others via MMS is not alone, she has been the only person arrested. She also spent a weekend in jail awaiting arraignment and a bond hearing. The statute she has been accused of breaking has exemptions in place that allows parents and/or guardians to take pictures of their naked children for a list of acceptable purposes. Interestingly, the statute does not provide the same exemption for the child themselves. While the consequences for her have already been laid out by the prosecutor in the charges, the recipients of her messages may be also facing prosecution for their passive role(s) in this incident.

Federal court gives a huge boost to the Fourth Amendment, rules the government must seek a warrant before seizing phone records

This is a huge victory for the Fourth Amendment. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled this week that investigators must obtain a search warrant from a judge to get access to cell phone records:

A federal appeals court has for the first time ruled that a warrant is required for the government to obtain an individual’s stored cellphone location records.

The Thursday decision by a three-judge panel in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta contrasts with a July 2013 decision by another appeals court that a warrant is not required.

That circuit court split increases the likelihood that the issue — one of the most pressing in privacy concerns in the digital age — will be settled by the Supreme Court.

“We hold that cell site location information is within the subscriber’s reasonable expectation of privacy,” the panel wrote in its decision. “The obtaining of that data without a warrant is a Fourth Amendment violation.”

In Bid to Buy T-Mobile, Sprint Chairman Slams US Wireless Policies that Sprint Helped Create

Masayoshi Son

Sprint’s Chairman, Masayoshi Son, is coming to Washington to explain how wireless competition in the US would be improved if only there were less of it.

After buying Sprint last year for $21.6 billion, he has floated plans to buy T-Mobile. When antitrust officials voiced their concerns about the proposed plan’s potential impact on wireless competition, Son decided to respond with an unusual strategy that goes something like this: The US wireless market isn’t competitive enough, so policymakers need to approve the merger of the third and fourth largest wireless companies in order to improve competition, because going from four nationwide wireless companies to three will make things even more competitive. Got it? Me neither.

An argument like that takes nerve, especially now. When AT&T attempted to buy T-Mobile a few years ago, Sprint led the charge against it, arguing vociferously that permitting the market to consolidate from four to only three nationwide wireless companies would harm innovation and wireless competition. After the Administration blocked the merger, T-Mobile rebounded in the marketplace, which immediately made it the poster child for the Administration’s antitrust policies.

Obama Administration wants to search your cell phone without a warrant

Even as the Obama Administration tries to play down the NSA’s surveillance of Americans, they’ll make the argument before the Supreme Court that law enforcement can search through Americans cell phones without a warrant:

In 2007, the police arrested a Massachusetts man who appeared to be selling crack cocaine from his car. The cops seized his cellphone and noticed that it was receiving calls from “My House.” They opened the phone to determine the number for “My House.” That led them to the man’s home, where the police found drugs, cash and guns.

The defendant was convicted, but on appeal he argued that accessing the information on his cellphone without a warrant violated his Fourth Amendment rights. Earlier this year, the First Circuit Court of Appeals accepted the man’s argument, ruling that the police should have gotten a warrant before accessing any information on the man’s phone.

Yes, President Obama, you’re spying on Americans

Rest easy, folks, President Barack Obama wants to assure you that the government isn’t spying on Americans, despite reports that the National Security Agency is collecting phone data of virutally every cell phone and Internet user in the country.

“We don’t have a domestic spying program,” President Obama declared during an appearance on The Tonight Show. “What we do have are some mechanisms where we can track a phone number or an email address that we know is connected to some sort of terrorist threat. And that information is useful.”

Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), who recently pushed an unsuccessful amendment to limit NSA data collection, contests that assertion.

“There is a program — that the Director of National Intelligence declassified, they’ve revealed it — that collects the records of every single American in the United States, regardless of whether they’re connected to any terrorist threat,” Amash told Laura Ingraham on Wednesday. “So when he says we’re tracking phone records and emails of people who are just connected to terrorist threats, that’s not true.”

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