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20Apr/11

Police Search Cell Phones During Traffic Stops

ACLU seeks information on Michigan program that allows cops to download information from smart phones belonging to stopped motorists.

The Michigan State Police have a high-tech mobile forensics device that can be used to extract information from cell phones belonging to motorists stopped for minor traffic violations. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Michigan last Wednesday demanded that state officials stop stonewalling freedom of information requests for information on the program.

ACLU learned that the police had acquired the cell phone scanning devices and in August 2008 filed an official request for records on the program, including logs of how the devices were used. The state police responded by saying they would provide the information only in return for a payment of $544,680. The ACLU found the charge outrageous.

"Law enforcement officers are known, on occasion, to encourage citizens to cooperate if they have nothing to hide," ACLU staff attorney Mark P. Fancher wrote. "No less should be expected of law enforcement, and the Michigan State Police should be willing to assuage concerns that these powerful extraction devices are being used illegally by honoring our requests for cooperation and disclosure."

A US Department of Justice test of the CelleBrite UFED used by Michigan police found the device could grab all of the photos and video off of an iPhone within one-and-a-half minutes. The device works with 3000 different phone models and can even defeat password protections.

"Complete extraction of existing, hidden, and deleted phone data, including call history, text messages, contacts, images, and geotags," a CelleBrite brochure explains regarding the device's capabilities. "The Physical Analyzer allows visualization of both existing and deleted locations on Google Earth. In addition, location information from GPS devices and image geotags can be mapped on Google Maps."

The ACLU is concerned that these powerful capabilities are being quietly used to bypass Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches.

"With certain exceptions that do not apply here, a search cannot occur without a warrant in which a judicial officer determines that there is probable cause to believe that the search will yield evidence of criminal activity," Fancher wrote. "A device that allows immediate, surreptitious intrusion into private data creates enormous risks that troopers will ignore these requirements to the detriment of the constitutional rights of persons whose cell phones are searched."

The national ACLU is currently suing the Department of Homeland Security for its policy of warrantless electronic searches of laptops and cell phones belonging to people entering the country who are not suspected of committing any crime.

Via http://www.thenewspaper.com/news/34/3458.asp

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4Feb/11

POLL: Do You Think An Internet “Kill Switch” Is An Effective Way To Protect National Security?

In the aftermath of Egypt and Tunisia's government-imposed Internet shut-downs, there has been a lot of talk this week about the U.S. Senate's Internet "Kill Switch" bill. No one argues that our networks are vulnerable to attack. Senators say they have committed to this power only to protect against "external cyber attacks". This raises several questions and deserves serious debate:

  • In a global network, is there really a distinction between internal and external threats?
  • Under what circumstances would the President use this power, and with what oversight?
  • Could the financial damage of isolating U.S. commerce from foreign customers outweigh the potential damage from attack?
  • Does the risk of an "Egyptian-style" shut-down really exist in Western Democracies, and if it does, is it a fair trade-off for national security?

That leads to today's poll question:

Do you think an Internet "Kill Switch" is an effective way to protect National Security?

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Of course, there are few perfect Yes/No answers in this world. Please feel free to share your comments below, and we encourage you to use the "Like" and "Share" buttons to elicit more opinions from others.

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2Feb/11

Senators Deny Similarities Between Egypt’s Internet Blocking & USA’s “Kill Switch” Bill

Some have suggested that our legislation would empower the president to deny U.S. citizens access to the Internet. Nothing could be further from the truth.
-Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.)

In a statement issued this week, Senators' Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), and  Tom Carper (D-Del.) said that their intent was to allow the president "to protect the U.S. from external cyber attacks," not to shut down the Internet.

Aside from the obvious civil liberties concerns, the problem I see is largely a mechanical one, and it demonstrates the Senators' lack of fundamental understanding when it comes to the world in which they legislate: By the time a cyber attack is apparent, it's no longer likely an "external" threat. The most effective attacks known today are distributed amongst a multitude of machines in various locations, making it impossible to protect citizens without shutting down the Internet -- if such a thing could even be accomplished in this country.

The U.S. network infrastructure is much more complex and diverse than that of Egypt. In part, that has to do with the shear differences in scale. But, perhaps surprisingly, it also has to do with the age of our network. Parts of our interconnected network go back five decades. Some interconnected networks predate the Internet itself. And these are interconnected with new infrastructure being added every day without the need for government knowledge or consent.

Most importantly, when the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET) was conceived, it was specifically designed to survive and reroute against an outage. That means, depending on the final draft, the law would likely be either ineffective, dangerous, or both.

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27Jan/11

Mixed Messages: US Govt. Tells Companies to Collect User Data, But Not To Use It

Last month the US Federal Trade Commission testified before Congress in order to establish "Do Not Track" legislation, challenging companies to either self-regulate, or face potentially stiff laws prohibiting the tracking of Internet users. This week the US Department of Justice testified before congress to establish regulations requiring data retention for the purposes of investigation and prosecution.

"Data retention is fundamental to the department's work in investigating and prosecuting almost every type of crime," US deputy assistant attorney general Jason Weinstein told a congressional subcommittee on Tuesday. "In some ways, the problem of investigations being stymied by a lack of data retention is growing worse." Weinstein acknowledged that greater data retention requirements raise legitimate privacy concerns but "any privacy concerns about data retention should be balanced against the needs of law enforcement to keep the public safe."

Emphasizing the vast disparity between the testimony of  these two Federal organizations is the following statement from the FTC's own prepared statement to Congress expressing a principal of "reasonable security and limited retention for consumer data" among companies collecting sensitive data.

"A key to protecting privacy is to minimize the amount of data collected and held by ISPs and online companies in the first place," according to John Morris, general counsel at the non-profit Center for Democracy & Technology. "Mandatory data retention laws would require companies to maintain large databases of subscribers' personal information, which would be vulnerable to hackers, accidental disclosure, and government or other third party access."

The DOJ's request would require "an entire industry to retain billions of discrete electronic records due to the possibility that a tiny percentage of them might contain evidence related to a crime," says Kate Dean, executive director of the Internet Service Provider Association. "We think that it is important to weigh that potential value against the impact on the millions of innocent Internet users' privacy."

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13Jan/11

Privacy Law’s Gone Ex Parte Like it’s 1986…or 1984

A byproduct of life in the 21st Century is that many of the perks of a post-centennial lifestyle require the abdication of a fair bit of privacy to cyberspace. That means that the paper records that once required a search warrant to read (and maybe the forceful extraction from your cold-dead-hands), are now in the possession of companies who don't. Of course there's Facebook and Twitter. Those didn't exist in the 20th. Century. But, what about your phone records and email? While your phone company has long been subject to a warrant or subpoena, in the 21st. Century new "self-service" tools have been developed to help telcos manage the onslaught of requests made particularly attractive by the fact that most of us carry what amounts to a homing-beacon in our pockets. Similarly, while email has always been an attractive source of discovery, until recently most of it resided on each correspondent's physical, and virtual, desktop waiting to get written-over by something more current. Today, it's more likely been put out to pasture in a seemingly-endless "server farm", waiting to be picked by a custodian of records.

Even our personal computers, which have always required a search warrant, and often require a cascading series of search warrants covering various regions of storage space and categories of searches, are rapidly being replaced by windows to the web -- sleek sheets of glass and sculpted-aluminum that act as a portal to your virtual existence. Like a supermodel, these tablets are thin and beautiful, but two-dimensional, with very little substance inside. What makes these devices a reality today is a combination of near-ubiquitous Internet connectivity and access to your personal online data once it's established. Even the notion of "backing up" is becoming a thing of the past, because the data you see, isn't really here. It's somewhere else, presumably safe from destruction, but not necessarily from dissemination. Like many things in life, it's a trade-off.

But, not when it comes to fighting crime. The shift of discovery from physical space to cyberspace is a decided advantage for law enforcement. In fact, Google reports that it responded to more than 4200 discovery requests in the first-half of 2010 alone. One of the reasons these requests have become so popular is that online data is easier seize than a laptop, and often much more useful. Much of what can be had requires no search warrant at all, and thanks to online tools, can be had without even so much as contacting the service provider. Why? Because, unlike the data on your hard drive, you don't necessarily own your data when it's stored in cyberspace.

The Electronic Communications Privacy Act was enacted by Congress in 1986 -- long before most people had access to the Internet, email, or a cellphone. When Mark Zuckerberg's only friends were his stuffed animals. Mind you, it was revolutionary for it's time -- enacted to extend government restrictions on wire taps from telephone calls to also include transmissions of electronic data by computer. But, it doesn't address current evolution. Today, far more can be gleaned from a historical records search than any telephone wiretap. Perhaps that's why last year the Department of Justice argued in favor of warantless email searches. Or why in the same year the DOJ argued that cellphone users had abdicated any expectation of privacy by using a service that stores location data.

Read more at http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/10/technology/10privacy.html?_r=2&pagewanted=2&ref=technology

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10Jan/11

Filed Under “Things You Thought You Could Take for Granted”: Court Holds there is a Reasonable Expectation of Privacy in the Contents of Emails

Show of hands: How many people have a reasonable expectation of privacy when you send an email? It turns out, as late as December 2010, you may have had no reasonable expectation of privacy when it came to your email correspondence -- at least that was the opinion of the United States Department of Justice (DOJ). And, between your Internet Service Provider's (ISP) Terms of Service (TOS), and the 1986 Stored Communications Act (18 U.S.C. §§ 2701-2712), you may not have under various circumstances.

M. Scott Koller, of McKennon | Schindler in Newport Beach, CA has written a very comprehensive overview of the decision, why it was ever in doubt, and the 1986 act that got us here in the first place.

Read more at http://www.reasonableexpectation.com/2011/01/09/stored-email-protected-by-the-4th-amendment/

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9Jan/11

NYT: Calif. County Criminalizes Smart-Meter Installations

Smart-Meter

Via NYT:

The law applies to unincorporated Marin, home to about 70,000 of the county's 260,000 residents. In addition to electromagnetic health risks, the board cited concerns about meters being used to collect information about residents' activities, impacts on aesthetics and potential damage to amateur radio networks.

Read full article at http://www.nytimes.com/gwire/2011/01/05/05greenwire-calif-county-criminalizes-smart-meter-installa-66649.html

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8Jan/11

When it comes to last year’s holiday gifts, Uncle Sam wants to know if you’ve been bad or good. So be good for goodness sake!

Via EFF:

What do an online donation to the International Red Cross, a bank transfer to family members living in Vietnam, and a payment sent through PayPal for an expensive rug in Turkey have in common? The government wants to know about them. And, if new rules proposed by the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, or FinCEN, go into effect, the government will — along with your name, address, bank account number, and other sensitive financial information.

In September, FinCEN, an agency component of the Department of the Treasury, proposed a set of rules (pdf) that would require banks and money transmitters to report to the government any cross-border electronic funds transfer. Yesterday, we submitted a comment (pdf) opposing the agency’s proposal.

Essentially, under the proposed rules, anytime you electronically transfer money into or out of the country, the government wants to know. The proposed rules require banks and money transmitters, like PayPal or Western Union, to submit reports documenting the amount of money sent or received, where that money came from, and where it is going. Depending on the type of transfer, a variety of information would be included in the reports, including the name, address, bank account number, and taxpayer ID number of the sender; the amount and currency of the funds transfer; and the name and address of the recipient. Passport numbers or alien ID numbers could also be required for some transfers.

The government wants reports on all electronic bank-to-bank transfers, regardless of whether the transfer is $1 or $1,000,000. For money transmitters, reports would be filed for transfers at or above $1,000. FinCEN estimates it will receive 750 million reports every year, and the agency wants to keep the data for ten years. Once the reports are filed with FinCEN, other federal law enforcement agencies — the FBI, IRS, ICE, and the DEA — would all have access to the data.

Shortly after FinCEN announced the rules in September, EFF filed a FOIA request seeking documentation that would justify the agency’s law enforcement need for the regulations. We also sought information demonstrating that FinCEN had taken adequate data-security precautions for handling such a massive amount of sensitive information. The agency produced some records, but the documents provided no evidence that the proposed rules are necessary to deter money laundering and terrorism financing, or that the agency had adequately assessed the privacy implications of the proposed rules.

In our comment, we opposed the rules for three reasons:

1. The new reports are unlikely to be effective in preventing terrorism financing — the primary impetus behind the regulations in the first place.

2. While the agency sought the advice of financial institutions, other law enforcement agencies, and even foreign governments when developing the rule, FinCEN never solicited the opinions of privacy advocates during the drafting process.

3. The agency has not provided any evidence that the technological systems are in place to safely receive, transmit, and store the vast quantities of highly-sensitive information the rules would require.

We strongly oppose the government’s attempt to pry into the sensitive financial dealings of citizens, especially when there is no demonstrated need and no evidence that the agency is equipped to handle that much sensitive information. Comments on the proposed rules are due December 29th, and can be submitted here. We urge you to join us in opposing these intrusive new regulations.

Read full article at http://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2010/12/sending-money-overseas-holidays-government-wants

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8Jan/11

Department of Justice Subpoenas Twitter Records of WikiLeaks Volunteers

Source: Freebase

Source: Freebase

Via Gawker:

The Department of Justice has subpoenaed many people's Twitter accounts who were associated with WikiLeaks. The subpoena states that there is "reasonable ground to believe that the records or other information sought are relevant and material to an ongoing criminal investigation."

Read full article at http://feeds.gawker.com/~r/gizmodo/full/~3/JyTdxSjSU5o/department-of-justice-subpoenas-twitter-records-of-wikileaks-volunteers

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4Jan/11

Can you hear me NOW?

Your Cellphone Is Subject to Warrantless Searches in California [Privacy] http://bit.ly/fTsSnb

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