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A Glimpse at the World of Digital Forensics

Jay Stanley,
Senior Policy Analyst,
ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project
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May 9, 2012

A gathering of cyber-crime specialists in Massachusetts last week provided a glimpse into the tactics used by prosecutors and police to access digital data. Kade Crockford of the ACLU of Massachusetts has done a nice writeup of the conference. As she points out, the event was closed to the press and the public, but the schedule of events was posted online, and included sessions with titles such as:

•Search and Seizure of the Mobile Devices of Juveniles

•The Next Generation of Forensic Digital Video & Image Field Acquisition

•Remote Mobile Device Tracking

•Private Browser Forensics

As Kade points out, such titles might be a lot less spooky if we could be confident that the techniques at issue were being used only when the police had convinced a judge that they had probable cause of criminal activity and had obtained a warrant. And some of them, such as a talk by the Massachusetts assistant attorney general on “Real Time Tracking of Suspects: the State of the Law,” seem like they ought to be public, since the government has an obligation to be clear about what rules it plays by.

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