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Oregon Senator: Police should get warrants for mobile data

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posted on Jan, 29 2011 @ 11:28 PM

Oregon Senator: Police should get warrants for mobile data

"If you asked most Americans, I think they would tell you that surreptitiously turning somebody's cell phone into a modern-day tracking device ... and using it to monitor their movements, 24/7, is a pretty serious intrusion into their privacy, pretty much comparable to searching their house or tapping their phone calls," Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) said.
(visit the link for the full news article)

posted on Jan, 29 2011 @ 11:28 PM
His main point is that with the advent of new technology, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) needs revising.

A brief definition of this act...

The Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) is a United States federal statute that prohibits a third party from intercepting or disclosing communications without authorization. The Act, which was originally passed as an amendment to the Wiretap Act of 1968, applies to both government employees and private citizens. It protects communications in storage as well as in transit.

The ECPA was amended by the Communications Assistance to Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) in 1994, by the USA PATRIOT Act in 2001 and by the USA PATRIOT Act reauthorization acts in 2006.

Here is an article from the NY Times called "1986 Privacy Law Is Outrun by the Web" that also addresses the cellphone issue.

Last year, for example, the Justice Department argued in court that cellphone users had given up the expectation of privacy about their location by voluntarily giving that information to carriers. In April, it argued in a federal court in Colorado that it ought to have access to some e-mails without a search warrant. And federal law enforcement officials, citing technology advances, plan to ask for new regulations that would smooth their ability to perform legal wiretaps of various Internet communications.

This article from, called "Cell Phone Privacy," summarizes what you can and cannot expect. .

Although there are many advantages to cell phone GPS tracking, there are also privacy concerns. As most people carry their cell phone with them at all times, the ability is in place to track the exact movements of all individuals. Cell phone GPS could prove useful in saving lives during emergencies.

And this page is a fact sheet on wireless communications voice and data privacy. There's a wealth of other very interesting information here as well.

Location-tracking features have privacy implications both from a law enforcement and behavioral marketing standpoint. Under certain circumstances, law enforcement personnel may obtain either retrospective (past) or prospective (future) locational data.

While retrospective data kept by cellular carriers for billing purposes may not be very detailed, prospective data can reveal the minute-by-minute location of a mobile device that is not on an active call. Such data would typically be obtained via a court-ordered warrant, for example. Cellular providers tend not to retain retrospective minute-by-minute logs of when each mobile device contacts the tower. However, they do keep records of which tower is in use when a call is initiated or answered. Those records are generally stored for six months to a year.

Maybe they'll address the 2011 version of the Patriot Act, which is apparently in progress.

Anyway, what do you think?
(visit the link for the full news article)
edit on 1/29/2011 by ~Lucidity because: (no reason given)

posted on Jan, 30 2011 @ 01:55 AM
reply to post by ~Lucidity


The absolutely should! They are playing fast and loose with privacy laws and it is getting worse all the time.

Soon they will say if you have a facebook account you have no right to privacy anywhere on the internet....

posted on Jan, 30 2011 @ 06:45 AM
reply to post by pianopraze

Ha. I think that's probably already true? The one link I provided covers internet too. Lots of fascinating reading there.

posted on Jan, 30 2011 @ 07:50 AM
As for which tower I'm connected to, I can understand the phone companies' desire to know where I am, particularly with respect to billing- someone calling me from a POTS line should be billed as appropriate any long distance charges but conversely, my calls to POTS are covered under a flat rate so my location is not so important. And then again, for billing purposes, anyone calling me would be dialing into a specific CO/exchange in my 'home' area code and the cell carrier deals with re-routing the call to my phone and thus handles that so even if I'm in Washington, anyone calling me is calling into a California exhange. Call routing is rather complex.

As for the government having access to my location data, they can look me up in the phone book and find where I reside. Beyond that, as my contract is with the cell carrier, a private corporation, they should have to subpoena such information from the carrier... with court authorization, just like they have to do now to get a wiretap. After all, what's the difference? Get a warrant to tap my line and record my conversations... get a warrant to tap my line to follow my location. Though, if I happen to be one of the idiots that downloads a geo-location app that tweets, or myself tweets, where I am every 15 minutes, I'm the dumbarse for giving up my privacy.

And, as I work in the cell phone industry, I will state that: I never use any GPS enabled applications on my phone and ALWAYS disable GPS functionality in my phones; I have a laptop and GPS/mapping software to find my way, thank you.
Most of the carriers' ability to passively track you is limited to:
1) which tower you're connected to;
2) which "sector" of the tower you're communication with;
3) RSSI (Received Signal Strength Indication), which is how strong the signal from your phone is received by the tower and roughly corresponds to the distance from the tower to your phone, but is only accurate within the arc / area covered by the sector you are in;
4) similar data from adjacent cells that can "hear" you but are not as of yet assigned to handle your call.

The above is the 'traditional' way of tracking a cell phone via triangulation but is not exact by any means and is only accurate within a 50 meters or so at best (likely over 100 meters)... unless you consider E911 technology (I'll hit that in a moment).

If the phone, and network, support it, GPS functionality can be incorporated into the data sent from the phone to the network. However, in my experience with GPS receivers (and phones), mounting the phone on the sunvisor (with the visor against the roof of a vehicle) is enough to block GPS as most receivers (and phones) require a minimum of 3 satellites visible (read: can get a signal from) to get a location, and even then accuracy is almost always less than 10 meters, so if you're on the 3rd floor of a building, in a north facing window, GPS might place you on that city block, and maybe in that building, but no clue about which floor.

As for E911, that's a different system not monitored nor recorded in realtime. It is activated when 911 is dialed from a phone and then queries about GPS location (if available from the phone) and then falls back to tower triangulation. However, it is more accurate than traditional triangulation - down to +/- 20 feet in the horizontal, but no location information about vertical so if you're in a building they'll find the building. E911 systems using AOA (angle of approach) are accurate in the horizontal and vertical to +/- 20 feet, possibly less depending on the distance from the tower. And I have to mention, current E911 is only accurate on TDMA, GSM networks; CDMA networks can't accurately use such since those are not channel based but are spread spectrum. CDMA based systems like Sprint, Verizon, and MetroPCS as well as UMTS/3G/WCDMA networks like AT&T and T-Mobile (both concurrently operate GSM/Edge too) work differently than GSM/Edge, as does WiMax and LTE, and I'm not going to go into how they can locate you.

Suffice it to say, cell carriers, by law, have to be able to locate you in order to assist 911/emergency calls. If law enforcement has access to locations in non-emergency situations, without a court order... that is an invasion of privacy and reasonable search and seizure. One could possibly even argue 5th amendment rights- the right to not self-incriminate. After all, just because you happened to be there, or at least near there according to how accurate civilian GPS systems are does not mean that "this guy was killed on the 6th floor of the Biltmore hotel, but I was in the lobby checking in for my honeymoon... yeah I hate the guy and wished he was dead and even threatened him but I didn't do it and I didn't know he was here" should result in a conviction based on illegally obtained and arguably circumstantial and inaccurate information.
edit on 1/30/2011 by abecedarian because: formatting

posted on Jan, 30 2011 @ 08:11 AM
reply to post by abecedarian

Yes. E911. But that should be among the only exceptions. Thanks for all that information. Wow.

posted on Jan, 30 2011 @ 09:46 AM
reply to post by ~Lucidity


Important issue, Privacy. ...It concerns me greatly that all the out-of-date legislation from Copyright to Open Access and Privacy is being "updated" to benefit corporate "persons' " interests over individual humans' rights.

edit on 30/1/11 by soficrow because: format

posted on Jan, 30 2011 @ 09:51 AM
reply to post by soficrow

Exactly right...corporate interests and only corporate interests. This is getting way out of hand. The corporations aren't adapting to the times, so we have to suffer for it by sacrificing more of our rights. Maybe it's time for them to change,,,even if it means changing their profit expectations too. They squeeze us from every direction for their all-precious, privacy, taxation...the list is endless.

posted on Jan, 31 2011 @ 12:10 AM

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