Thursday, January 05, 2006

Government Spying on Cell Phones

Big Brother is not just watching you, he is listening in on your cell phone, using it to track your movements, measure your speed while you're driving (not that you should be driving while talking on a cell phone, but that's another post), and much more besides. All of it without telling you. And he no longer needs a warrant, because according to a federal court's latest reading of our "living document" the Fourth Amendment doesn't bar or ban such activities as "unreasonable searches and seizures." (Note the role of a public-private partnership spelled out near the beginning of Part Two. Tell me again why public-private partnerships aren't a form of happy-face fascism?)

Gov't Spying On Cell Phones

Summary:

Turn on your cell phone and you give government agencies instant information about your location, and even your speed of travel. It may not be long before you get a speeding ticket in the mail, or police at your door.

Despite three court rulings that cell phone tracking by government agencies without a court order is illegal, a fourth court ruling has now authorized blanket spying. The government can now use cell phone data to track physical location, without a search warrant or probable cause.

The first test of the system is now under way in Kansas City and St. Louis.

Cell phone tracking is also taking place in Baltimore, Washington, D.C., Norfolk, Va., Atlanta and Macon, Ga. Vehicles with E-ZPass or FasTrak toll transponder payment systems are also easily tracked by government agencies in a similar way.

The information being gathered by the Missouri Department of Transportation could be used for far more than just providing traffic information to the public on crowded highways. The tracking system can provide the exact location of any cell phone user, track movements of a cell phone, tap into a cell phone conversation, and even be used to issue speeding tickets by mail.

The Missouri program charts the relative speed of drivers by measuring the time between the intermittent signals cell phones send to towers along a stretch of road. That information is then used with computerized highway maps to show the location and speed of each cell phone.



http://www.newswithviews.com/BreakingNews/breaking39.htm

GOV'T. WINS COURT AUTHORIZATION TO SPY ON CELL PHONE USE
PART 1

Posted 1:00 AM Eastern by David Bresnahan
January 3, 2006
NewsWithViews.com


Summary:

Despite three court rulings that cell phone tracking by government agencies without a court order is illegal, a fourth court ruling has now authorized blanket spying. The government can now use cell phone data to track physical location, without a search
warrant or probable cause.


NEW YORK -- A federal court issued an opinion permitting government agencies to use cell phone data to track a cell phone's physical location, without a search warrant based on probable cause.

The ruling seems to be in line with recent revelations about President Bush authorizing secret, warrantless wiretaps. The court opinion on Dec. 20, 2005 went
largely unnoticed by the media or the public, but may have major ramifications on privacy rights and issues.

Magistrate Judge Gabriel W. Gorenstein of the United States District Court, Southern District of New York issued the opinion, despite three previous rulings to the contrary by other judges. There is no party to appeal, so the ruling paves the way for government agencies in all states to begin cell phone tracking without legal difficulty.

There was only one party in each case that was rejected by other courts, the same party in the case that was given approval -- the Department of Justice. The DOJ did not appeal the cases it lost, and there is no party to appeal the case it won.

"What other new surveillance powers has the government been creating out of whole cloth and how long have they been getting away with it?" commented the non-profit Electronic Frontier Foundation on it's web site.

The DOJ revealed an attitude that a court order is not needed in the brief submitted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Brown: "A cell phone user voluntarily transmits a signal to the cell phone company, and thereby 'assumes the risk' that the cell phone provider will reveal to law enforcement the cell-site information."

When the issue comes up in other courts there will be no case of appeal for judges to review for guidance, creating the more likely situation that each subsequent case will be easier and easier for the DOJ and other government agencies to win, say legal analysts commenting in various blogs.

Legitimate needs for tracking have been used by commercial vendors and government agencies to justify monitoring of all consumers with a cell phone. The checks and balances put in place to protect individual privacy, such as court orders, are in jeopardy by blanket use of tracking systems that have no accountability, according to government watchdog groups and privacy advocates.

National Engineering Technology Corporation (NET) is actively negotiating with various state department of transportation agencies to track cell phone users, without their permission. The data will be used to study traffic flow and provide information to various systems and third parties to notify drivers of ways to avoid traffic congestion.

News stories tell of car thieves captured because a toll transponder, or other Global Positioning System (GPS) device in a car used to identified their location. Web sites already exist that enable the public the ability to track the location of cell phones. These sites advertise services to do things such as know the location of a teenager, or find a lost child.

The present traffic systems do not capture the personal information available from each cell phone, but opponents of cell phone tracking express concerns about the potential for that information to easily be included with the simple click of a computer mouse.

The DOJ was previously turned down by other judges in New York, Long Island, and Texas.

Each time the DOJ included a request to capture the dialing information of incoming and outgoing calls, as well as physical location of each phone.

The previous judges rejected the requests stating that investigators cannot track cell phones without going through the hoops necessary for getting a traditional search warrant.

The DOJ did not respond to requests for comments.

© 2006 - NewsWithViews.com - All Rights Reserved

http://www.newswithviews.com/BreakingNews/breaking40.htm


GOV'T. TRACKING CELL PHONES WITHOUT COURT ORDER
PART 2

Posted 1:00 AM Eastern by David Bresnahan
January 4, 2006
NewsWithViews.com

Summary:

Turn on your cell phone and you give government agencies instant information about your location, and even your speed of travel. It may not be long before you get a speeding ticket in the mail, or police at your door.


KANSAS CITY, MO. -- Drivers with cell phones are being tracked in a new government program designed to monitor the location and speed of cell phones in vehicles moving along Missouri highways.

The state of Missouri has entered into a $6.2 million contract with National Engineering Technology Corporation (NET) to track cell phone users, without their permission.

The first test of the system is now under way in Kansas City and St. Louis, according to published reports. The high-tech, government authorized spy network is operated by NET and Delcan, a Canadian company. The two are owned by ITIS Holdings, a British company.

Cell phone tracking is also taking place in Baltimore, Washington, D.C., Norfolk, Va., Atlanta and Macon, Ga. Vehicles with E-ZPass or FasTrak toll transponder payment systems are also easily tracked by government agencies in a similar way.

Missouri is the first government agency to begin a program designed to track the movement of vehicles, ostensibly to provide traffic information to motorists in real time. The same electronic tracking information has potential to be used for much more.

Federal regulations now require cell phones to transmit a signal that identifies the location of the phone for use by 911 operators. That same information can be used to track any cell phone that is turned on.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) has called for a system that enables consumers to opt out of the tracking program, according to news reports.

The information being gathered by the Missouri Department of Transportation could be used for far more than just providing traffic information to the public on crowded highways. The tracking system can provide the exact location of any cell phone user, track movements of a cell phone, tap into a cell phone conversation, and even be used to issue speeding tickets by mail.

The Missouri program charts the relative speed of drivers by measuring the time between the intermittent signals cell phones send to towers along a stretch of road. That information is then used with computerized highway maps to show the location and speed of each cell phone.

Under the current contract for services, the private information associated with each cell phone is deleted from the system, so there is nothing in the present service that identifies individual cell phone owners. However, opponents are concerned that in the future that information will be used to send speeding tickets to drivers by mail.

Officials in the Missouri Dept. of Transportation were quoted in local press reports as being in favor of selling the tracking information to outside users in order to pay for the costs of the system.

The terms of the contract with NET allows that company to sell the tracking information to outside vendors. The government has no authority to monitor where the information ends up, according the terms of the contract.

After the first two years of the contract the state can enter into a revenue sharing agreement with NET and receive funds from the selling of the tracking information to third parties, giving the government an interest in selling information instead of protecting it. The government could also begin issuing speeding tickets by mail as an added means to generate even more revenue.

The traffic monitoring plans assume NET will market more detailed information to the private sector - automakers that offer onboard navigation systems, cell phone companies, shipping businesses, or media traffic reporting.

The government has no plans at the present time to notify cell phone users that their phones may be tracked without their knowledge or permission, according to news reports. There is also no means to provide for consumers who wish to opt out. Presently the only way to do that is to turn cell phones off.

"It's a mission creep issue that would be of most concern to consumers," said Lillie Coney, associate director of EPIC, as reported by AP. "They may start out saying we want to know if there's a traffic problem and then take that information and start using it for different purposes."

© 2006 - NewsWithViews.com - All Rights Reserved

David M. Bresnahan has over 30 years of experience as
an award-winning journalist, broadcaster, radio station
owner, talk show host, and business owner. David has
been a prominent writer for many Internet newspapers.

Web Sites: www.Bresnahan.org and www.ThatPRGuy.com

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