Cell Phones & Smartphones

If the Government Is Tracking Your Location or Reading Your Email, Would You Ever Know?

If the Government Is Tracking Your Location or Reading Your Email, Would You Ever Know?

By Patrick C. Toomey, Staff Attorney, ACLU National Security Project at 12:36pm
Court rulings unsealed last week in Washington show for the first time a behind-the-scenes legal battle over when the government should have to tell you that it's tracking your location and reading your email. These documents—which came to light only as the public learned more about the government's controversial investigation of Fox News journalist James Rosen—reveal significant new details about the government's obligation to provide notice, after the fact, when it obtains geolocation data or obtains stored email messages. Indeed, the court orders bring to light a striking contrast: federal prosecutors in Washington routinely provide notice to individuals they track using cell-phone geolocation data, even if that notice is delayed, yet the government strenuously resists giving any notice to individuals when searching and reading their emails.
Following Texas’s Lead on Location Tracking

Following Texas’s Lead on Location Tracking

By Allie Bohm, Advocacy & Policy Strategist, ACLU at 4:21pm

Yesterday, the Texas House of Representatives passed the first bill in the nation that would require law enforcement to obtain a probable cause warrant before tracking individuals’ location by collecting their cell phone location data. As Rebecca…

Federal Judge: Only Powered-Off Cell Phones Deserve Privacy Protections

Federal Judge: Only Powered-Off Cell Phones Deserve Privacy Protections

By Chris Soghoian, Principal Technologist and Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project at 11:27am

A federal magistrate judge in New York recently ruled that cell phone location data deserves no protection under the Fourth Amendment and that accordingly, the government can engage in real-time location surveillance without a search warrant. In an opinion straight from the Twilight Zone, magistrate judge Gary Brown ruled two weeks ago that “cell phone users who fail to turn off their cell phones do not exhibit an expectation of privacy.”

The case in question involved a physician who the DEA believed had issued thousands of prescriptions for pain killers in exchange for cash. In March of this year, the DEA had obtained a warrant for his arrest, and,

Court Ruling Gives FBI Too Much Leeway on Surveillance Technology

Court Ruling Gives FBI Too Much Leeway on Surveillance Technology

By Linda Lye, Staff Attorney, ACLU of Northern California at 5:09pm

Today, a federal district judge in Arizona issued a very disappointing decision concerning the government’s obligations to be candid with courts about new technologies they are seeking a warrant to use.

The case involves Daniel Rigmaiden, who is being criminally prosecuted for an alleged electronic tax fraud scheme. The government used a surveillance device known as a stingray to locate Mr. Rigmaiden. A stingray operates by simulating a cell tower and tricking all wireless devices on the same network in the immediate vicinity to communicate with it, as though it were the carrier’s cell tower. In order to locate a suspect, a stingray scoops up information not only of the suspect, but all third parties on the same network in the area. This means that when the government uses a stingray to conduct a search, it is searching not only the suspect, but also tens or hundreds of third parties who have nothing to do with the matter. When the FBI sought court permission to use the device to locate Mr. Rigmaiden, it didn’t explain the full reach of stingrays to the court.

The ACLU and the Electronic Frontier Foundation filed an amicus brief arguing that when the government wants to use

The House Hearing on Location Tracking Law (or the Lack Thereof)

The House Hearing on Location Tracking Law (or the Lack Thereof)

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 1:44pm

My colleague Catherine Crump testified before Congress today on location tracking and privacy, and the GPS Act that would increase legal protections for our location data. The hearing was before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations, and you can read her written testimony submitted here.

The chairman of the committee, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (D-Wis.), is a strong supporter of updating the law. He opened the hearing by acknowledging that the law has not kept pace with new technology—certainly a truism, and certainly true with regards to location tracking in particular, but one that is good to hear accepted as fact by powerful lawmakers.

Sensenbrenner also slammed the Justice Department for not sending a witness to the hearing. The reason, he reported, is that “it lacks a clear policy position on ECPA,” referring to the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act. When Sensenbrenner was reading Catherine’s bio, which included mention of her efforts to find out how the DOJ is interpreting

ACLU Files FTC Complaint Over Android Smartphone Security

ACLU Files FTC Complaint Over Android Smartphone Security

By Chris Soghoian, Principal Technologist and Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project at 9:55am

Yesterday, we filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) asking the agency to investigate the major wireless carriers for failing to warn their customers about unpatched security flaws in the software running on their phones. These companies—AT&T,…

DOJ Emails Show Feds Were Less Than "Explicit" With Judges On Cell Phone Tracking Tool

DOJ Emails Show Feds Were Less Than "Explicit" With Judges On Cell Phone Tracking Tool

By Linda Lye, Staff Attorney, ACLU of Northern California at 11:06am

(Update below)

A Justice Department document obtained by the ACLU of Northern California shows that federal investigators were routinely using a sophisticated cell phone tracking tool known as a "stingray," but hiding that fact from federal…

Congress Must Act to Stop Unwarranted Tracking by Law Enforcement

Congress Must Act to Stop Unwarranted Tracking by Law Enforcement

By Sandra Fulton, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 10:22am

In an effort to rein in overreaching law enforcement practices, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) yesterday re-introduced the GPS Act, which would require a warrant for location tracking and create a critical check on the growing…

New Document Sheds Light on Government’s Ability to Search iPhones

New Document Sheds Light on Government’s Ability to Search iPhones

By Chris Soghoian, Principal Technologist and Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project & Naomi Gilens, ACLU Speech, Privacy and Technology Project at 10:11am

Cell phone searches are a common law enforcement tool, but up until now, the public has largely been in the dark regarding how much sensitive information the government can get with this invasive surveillance technique. A document submitted to court…

If It’s Reasonable in Denver: Lessons in Location Tracking from Colorado

If It’s Reasonable in Denver: Lessons in Location Tracking from Colorado

By Allie Bohm, Advocacy & Policy Strategist, ACLU at 12:00am

 

In April, ACLU of Colorado filed public records requests seeking to learn about their local law enforcement agencies’ policies, procedures, and practices for tracking cell phones, bringing the total count of ACLU-filed cell phone…

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