Police Using Your Cell Phone to Spy on You.

Posted By Levi

July 26th, 2012 11:17am

Category: Civil Liberties

Since 911, our rights to privacy under the Fourth Amendment have gone to the dogs.

According to the NY Times cellphone carriers reported that they responded to a startling 1.3 million demands for subscriber information last year from law enforcement agencies seeking text messages, caller locations and other information in the course of investigations.

According to the paper, the volume of the requests reported by the carriers — which most likely involve several million subscribers — surprised even some officials who have closely followed the growth of cell surveillance. Many of these requests did  not even involve the use of a warrant as required under the 4th Amendment.

In a related story, the Times had this:

“THE device in your purse or jeans that you think is a cellphone — guess again. It is a tracking device that happens to make calls. Let’s stop calling them phones. They are trackers.

 Most doubts about the principal function of these devices were erased when it was recently disclosed that cellphone carriers responded 1.3 million times last year to law enforcement requests for call data. That’s not even a complete count, because T-Mobile, one of the largest carriers, refused to reveal its numbers. It appears that millions of cellphone users have been swept up in government surveillance of their calls and where they made them from. Many police agencies don’t obtain search warrants when requesting location data from carriers.

 Thanks to the explosion of GPS technology and smartphone apps, these devices are also taking note of what we buy, where and when we buy it, how much money we have in the bank, whom we text and e-mail, what Web sites we visit, how and where we travel, what time we go to sleep and wake up — and more. Much of that data is shared with companies that use it to offer us services they think we want.

 Every year, private companies spend millions of dollars developing new services that track, store and share the words, movements and even the thoughts of their customers,” writes Paul Ohm, a law professor at the University of Colorado. “These invasive services have proved irresistible to consumers, and millions now own sophisticated tracking devices (smartphones) studded with sensors and always connected to the Internet.”

What’s the harm?

“The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, ruling about the use of tracking devices by the police, noted that GPS data can reveal whether a person “is a weekly church goer, a heavy drinker, a regular at the gym, an unfaithful husband, an outpatient receiving medical treatment, an associate of particular individuals or political groups — and not just one such fact about a person, but all such facts.”

 There is an even more fascinating and diabolical element to what can be done with location information. New research suggests that by cross-referencing your geographical data with that of your friends, it’s possible to predict your future whereabouts with a much higher degree of accuracy.”

 Many of us take the position that we should not worry about this kind of information being collected on us, especially by the police since they are only protecting us and I am a law abiding citizen so I have nothing to hide. Yes, there are legitimate times when police surveillance is necessary for security reasons and I am all for that. But I am more comfortable when this is done in a legal way and according to the Constitution. If the police wants to tap someone’s phone, go to the judge and get a warrant.

 This country has had an ugly history of the police and FBI spying on Americans without just cause. See here. When there is no judicial oversight we end up with situations like this.

Here, Glen Greenwald explains why we should be concern about our privacy. The clip begins at 5:06.


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