cell phones

More evidence that we must be vigilant: Barack Obama begs cops to stop reminding Americans they’re under constant surveillance

We have all heard of the now infamous technology known as “stingrays,” which law enforcement uses to track cell phones.

The military and local law enforcement agencies have been making use of this technology for years. The devices are used by law enforcement to trick cell phones into giving in details on its identification and location. This process takes place once the tool used by the authorities mimics a cell phone tower. The target then receives electronic signals that transform the phone into a tracking instrument.

Stingrays are reportedly used by law enforcement when officers are not willing to contact the phone companies during an investigation. They ignore a few steps of the operation, ignore any need for warrants, which they have already ruled unnecessary when using stingrays, and focus on obtaining information on a potential suspect by going straight for the target’s phone.

Some of the most recent coverage the use of these technologies has obtained was linked to the special motion filed by the American Civil Liberties Union. ACLU filed the motion in the Florida state court to obtain access to information on why law enforcement was using this technology, but federal authorities were having none of it.

According to Wired, U.S. Marshals grabbed the files before ACLU even had the chance to review any documents.

Whether this technology is widely and consistently used by law enforcement across the country or not, privacy proponents are not ignoring its capacity. Now, however, new revelations seem to indicate the real scope of the matter.

Today in Liberty: Harry Reid doesn’t care about religious liberty, Ted Cruz wants a voter fraud investigation in Mississippi

“When the people find they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic.” — Benjamin Franklin

— Harry Reid plans to address Hobby Lobby: Though Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) says the Senate will tackle legislation to address the Supreme Court decision in the Hobby Lobby case in the coming weeks. He didn’t offer specifics, but The Hill notes this morning that Democrats on Capitol Hill are planning to introduce legislation before that August recess to amend the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and reverse the decision. “At least three pieces of legislation being prepared by Democrats would help maintain access to free birth control for women affected by the court’s ruling,” The Hill explains, “though staffers provided few details on Monday.” Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) is reportedly “leading the push in the upper chamber.” Sen. Dick Durban (D-IL) plans to introduce legislation to require employers to disclose whether prescription birth control is covered by in their plans. That legislation is odd given that Hobby Lobby, for example, objected to two forms of over-the-counter birth control. Two House Democrats are also working on legislation to amend the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The measures being crafted by congressional Democrats have no chance of passage, but this is a wedge issue, so they’re going to play it up to motivate their base. Because politics and elections.

Cops want logs of your text messages

text message

George Orwell painted a very scary picture in his novel, 1984.  The book was meant as a warning, a dire picture that he wanted people to avoid at all costs.  Unfortunately, it looks more and more like some people want to use it as a handbook for how to create their own idea of a perfect state.

The latest is from some law enforcement groups that are asking the United States Senate for a law that will require cellular service providers to store logs of your SMS text messages for two years.  You know, just in case they want need those for future criminal cases:

As the popularity of text messages has exploded in recent years, so has their use in criminal investigations and civil lawsuits. They have been introduced as evidence in armed robbery, cocaine distribution, and wire fraud prosecutions. In one 2009 case in Michigan, wireless provider SkyTel turned over the contents of 626,638 SMS messages, a figure described by a federal judge as “staggering.”

Chuck DeWitt, a spokesman for the Major Cities Chiefs Police Association, which represents the 63 largest U.S. police forces including New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, and Chicago, said “all such records should be retained for two years.” Some providers, like Verizon, retain the contents of SMS messages for a brief period of time, while others like T-Mobile do not store them at all.

NTSB: Your Nanny State representatives

The National Transportation Safety Board is recommending an outright ban on all cell phone usage, except in the case of emergencies, according to an AP story.  This recommendations also includes hands-free devices like Bluetooth headsets and speaker phone technology.

This action stems from a Missouri accident caused by a young driver who reportedly sent or recieved 11 in the 11 minutes prior to the accident.

From the AP report:

The accident is a “big red flag for all drivers,” NTSB chairman Deborah Hersman said at a meeting to determine the cause of the accident and make safety recommendations.

It’s not possible to know from cell phone records if the driver was typing, reaching for the phone or reading a text at the time of the crash, but it’s clear he was manually, cognitively and visually distracted, she said.

“Driving was not his only priority,” Hersman said. “No call, no text, no update is worth a human life.”

The board is expected to recommend new restrictions on driver use of electronic devices behind the wheel. While the NTSB doesn’t have the power to impose restrictions, it’s recommendations carry significant weight with federal regulators and congressional and state lawmakers.

Missouri had a law banning drivers under 21 years old from texting while driving at the time of the crash, but wasn’t aggressively enforcing the ban, board member Robert Sumwalt said.

“Without the enforcement, the laws don’t mean a whole lot,” he said.

Please note that last sentence.

Barack Obama Wants To Track Your Cell Phone

In case currently before the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, the Obama Administration is arguing that you have no expectation of privacy in any of your cell phone data:

Even though police are tapping into the locations of mobile phones thousands of times a year, the legal ground rules remain unclear, and federal privacy laws written a generation ago are ambiguous at best. On Friday, the first federal appeals court to consider the topic will hear oral arguments (PDF) in a case that could establish new standards for locating wireless devices.

In that case, the Obama administration has argued that warrantless tracking is permitted because Americans enjoy no “reasonable expectation of privacy” in their–or at least their cell phones’–whereabouts. U.S. Department of Justice lawyers say that “a customer’s Fourth Amendment rights are not violated when the phone company reveals to the government its own records” that show where a mobile device placed and received calls.

Those claims have alarmed the ACLU and other civil liberties groups, which have opposed the Justice Department’s request and plan to tell the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia that Americans’ privacy deserves more protection and judicial oversight than what the administration has proposed.

“This is a critical question for privacy in the 21st century,” says Kevin Bankston, an attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation who will be arguing on Friday. “If the courts do side with the government, that means that everywhere we go, in the real world and online, will be an open book to the government unprotected by the Fourth Amendment.”

Study: Cell phone bans are ineffective

For all the nanny staters out there, a new study shows that bans on talking on cell phones while driving have not reduced traffic accidents:

A new study suggests laws banning the use of hand-held devices while driving have not reduced the rate of accidents in three states and the District of Columbia.

In addition to the nation’s capital, the report by the Highway Loss Data Institute reviews insurance claims in New York, Connecticut and California. It also compares the data to other areas that do not have cell phone bans.

“The laws aren’t reducing crashes, even though we know that such laws have reduced hand-held phone use, and several studies have established that phoning while driving increases crash risk,” said Adrian Lund, president of the Highway Loss Data Institute.

There were no fluctuations in collision rates before and after the laws were put in place, the report said.

That’s not to say dialing a number or texting is safe, but most if not all states have distracted driving laws in place…there really is no need to make redundant laws.

If you want to ban distractions, ban eating in a car or ban small children in a car (yes, I’m being sarcastic). I’ve seen more accidents caused by those examples than people talking on a cell phone.

Free Cell Phones for the “Poor”

What will they think of next? Our nation is in the midst of a national recession not seen since the Great Depression. Tax revenues are in decline. Every agency in Alabama is in proration. Yet as many as 560,000+ households in Alabama are about to qualify for free cell phones (more than 25% of the state!).

Read the article here.

I don’t care what anybody says; if we live in a country where the “poor” get free cell phones, we have no real poor here.

Notice that this program only gives recipients about an hour of talk-time per month—but allows them to buy additional time for 20 cents a minute (and most do). If these people are supposed to be poor, how are they able to afford to pay for this extra time?

NYPD Wants Authority To Jam Cell Phones

This is getting out of control.  The NYPD wants to be able to effectively disable your cell phone in the midst of an emergency (terrorist atack, martial law, etc).

The New York Police Department wants to be able to shut down cell phones, in case of a terrorist attack.

During last month’s massacre in Mumbai, terrorist handlers over micromanaged via mobile phone the assaults on the hotels, train stations, and Jewish center that killed more than 170 people.

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