US Supreme Court Could Soon Allow Police To Monitor the Movements of Smartphone Users Without a Warrant

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Smartphones are great. They do a bunch of stuff like browsing the web, managing bank accounts and throwing angry birds at things. They can also do another thing that is not so cool: Constantly monitor your movements at any given time. Sure, location services can still be turned off on smartphones but most people don’t bother because, for one, they want to be able to find their expensive phone if they ever lose it.

Lawmakers are currently taking advantage of these powerful devices along with a general “relaxed” attitude towards privacy by creating extremely intrusive laws. The US Supreme Court could soon allow police to monitor the movements of US mobile phone users without a warrant. Some might say “Nothing to hide, nothing to fear”. Yes…that’s what they said when dictatorial police states where instated in the 20th century. What these people also forget is that those kinds of laws go against the 4th Amendment. But the US Constitution does not seem to get the respect it deserves these days…

Here’s a BBC article about smartphones and laws permitting monitoring.

How much privacy can smartphone owners expect?

The US Supreme Court could soon allow police to monitor the movements of US mobile phone users without a warrant. Now that most of us carry sophisticated tracking devices in our pockets, how much privacy do we have a right to expect?

Millions of us happily invade our own privacy every day on Twitter and Facebook, sharing personal details with the world and broadcasting our location in a way previous generations would have found bizarre.

Even those who shy away from social media and new technology in general are not immune. The most basic mobile phones are in constant contact with the nearest mast, sending information about the whereabouts of their users to phone companies, who can later hand that data over to the police, if requested.

At the other end of the spectrum, in the world of smartphones, privacy is becoming an increasingly outdated concept, argues technology writer Sam Biddle. What might once have been considered “creepy” and invasive is becoming normal.

“That line of creepiness is there, but it’s eroding quickly because, frankly, we are just getting used to it,” says Mr Biddle, a staff writer for Gizmodo.com.

“Something like (smartphone app) Foursquare, something like Find My Friends, these things all would have sounded like something from 1984. Now they are fun and free.

“So I think whatever line there once was is receding very quickly.”

He adds: “The excitement and the novelty of it blinds us to the fact that is a little weird and maybe, in terms of privacy rights, a little ominous.”

For the smartphone customer “it’s a trade-off, in terms of privacy versus service,” he says. For the mobile phone company “following you around is just part of the service”.

‘Legitimate expectation’

There are signs that governments and law enforcement agencies around the world are taking advantage of this increasingly relaxed attitude towards privacy to step up surveillance of citizens.

The case currently before the Supreme Court, US vs Jones, hinges on whether police officers should be allowed to plant GPS tracking devices on suspects’ cars without a warrant.

Nightclub owner and suspected drug smuggler Antoine Jones had such a device attached to his vehicle for 28 days so officers could follow his movements in order to build up a case against him.

His legal team argued at a Supreme Court hearing earlier this month that his Fourth Amendment rights, which are meant to protect US citizens from invasive searches, were violated.

Lawyers for the Obama administration argued that Jones did not have a “legitimate expectation of privacy” – the standard legal test in the US for the past 45 years – because his car was in a public place.

Attaching a tracking device to it was no different to tailing him, which has always been legal, the government argued.

If the Supreme Court agrees, it could open the door to mass unwarranted surveillance of suspects using GPS bugs, civil liberties campaigners have warned.

Open to abuse?

But law enforcement officers no longer have to physically plant a bug on a suspect’s car or person. In the US, they are increasingly using mobile phone tracking software.

“Police officers can sit in the comfort of their own stations and use this technology to watch not just one person, but many people, over long periods of time,” says Catherine Crump, an attorney for American Civil Liberties Union.

This is far more invasive than traditional surveillance, she argues.

“GPS tracking can actually be quite revealing about who a person is and what they value. It can show where a person goes to church, whether they are in therapy, whether they are an outpatient at a medical clinic, whether they go to a gun range.”

Without police officers being forced to go before a court to obtain a “probable cause” warrant, the technology is wide open to abuse, the ACLU argues, and it is hoping that the Supreme Court will ban all warrantless surveillance when they deliver their verdict in the Jones case.

“I don’t think you have to be a card carrying member of the ACLU to be concerned about a world in which every citizen of the United States can be tracked on the whim of a curious police officer, for any reason, or no reason at all,” says Ms Crump.

But police and prosecutors tend to take a different view.

“If it is a legitimate law enforcement need and there is no time to get a warrant there should be occasions when you can use a tracking device,” says Ed Marsico, district attorney for Dauphin County, in Pennsylvania.

Metropolitan police

And the same goes for mobile phone tracking, he says, arguing that there is little practical difference between a mobile phone company knowing your location and the local police.

“Most of us have cell phones now. Most of them have some kind of GPS tracking within them, so Verizon or AT&T already know where you are,” Mr Marsico tells BBC News.

If the Supreme Court rules against the government it could seriously damage the ability of police officers to carry out undercover surveillance of suspected major criminals, he argues.

“Police are not out to put tracking devices on every single car. They are using it sparingly to further legitimate investigations.

“Technology has changed. The criminals are using technology to stay one step ahead of us, so we would like to use some technology to get ahead of them.”

In the UK, the availability of cheap GPS devices, and a mistaken belief that it was permitted under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, led to covert tracking being used by public authorities, including local councils “without properly considering the application of the legislation,” according to watchdog the Surveillance Commissioners.

The government issued new guidelines in April 2010, stressing the need to gain permission from senior officers, who must be convinced it is necessary and proportionate – and not likely to fall foul of Article 8 of the Human Rights Act.

Personal permission from the home secretary is needed to intercept phone communications. Some 1,682 interception warrants were issued in 2010.

‘Not the Gestapo’

Public authorities can obtain other communications data without the home secretary’s authority, such as the time, date and location of phone calls. In 2010, 552,550 such requests were made.

The Metropolitan Police has stepped up its surveillance of social media in recent months, claiming it helped prevent this summer’s riots spreading to high-profile targets such as the 2012 Olympics site.

But the London force is also reportedly using software that masquerades as a mobile phone network, allowing it to intercept communications and gather data about users in a targeted area, such as a demonstration.

Most civil liberties campaigners do not want the police banned from using new technology and accept that telecoms companies are “not the Gestapo”, as Catherine Crump puts it.

But, argues the ACLU lawyer: “People should not have to choose between using new technology, which is becoming increasingly commonplace and hard to live without, and giving up their privacy.”

Some believe the moment when that choice has to be made has arrived.

‘Watershed moment’

Earlier this month, a US Federal Court in Virginia ordered Twitter to grant the Justice Department access to private data from the accounts of three suspected Wikileaks supporters, ruling that they had a “lessened expectation” of privacy after signing up to the micro blogging site.

Al Girardi, a defence attorney who specialises in internet and telecoms privacy, sees this, along with the Jones case, as a “watershed” moment.

“You have some very serious decisions happening which basically define you as having no expectation of privacy with your online provider and yet nobody seems to be concerned about it,” he says.

“I don’t know if it’s just the Facebook generation but it’s a surprise to me that there isn’t more resistance.”

Without a major public outcry, or some kind of “scandal” to focus the minds of politicians and telecoms executives, the erosion of privacy is likely continue unabated, argues Sam Biddle.

“Barring some kind of very radical, strong legislation, it wouldn’t surprise me if in 10 years, I know where everyone I know is at all times, in real time, constantly.

“I think it won’t even be an issue then. It will just be the status quo.”

Source:  BBC

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82 Comments on "US Supreme Court Could Soon Allow Police To Monitor the Movements of Smartphone Users Without a Warrant"

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What is sad about all the "cool" gadgets is that slave labor has been used to mass produce them. Evidently, Apple factories in China work their people to death in-order to feed the world's hunger for cheap and abundant technology. I read a book called "Spy Chips" and one of the points in the book was that the mass production of gadgets was really to mass produce the micro-chips inside the gadgets. Thus, the real intention is to get as many micro-chips into as many hands as possible; all in the name of "fun" and "cool" technology with products such as the iPhone. I am nervous as to what is coming our way; because in the book "Spy Chips" groups like IBM and Procter and Gamble and some others have been planning their little schemes since maybe the late 1990's. What else is scary is that there are chips in… Read more »

Everyone when they read 1984 thought " No way, everyone would revolt." …. No, this new generation (with the absence of any historical context or education) has emphatically embraced it and has enslaved themselves to the "Technology of ME"

"Movies like Batman, show how they use secret tracking devices on individuals all the time. If they’re willing to show that to the general global public, then what advanced tracking technology have the elite got, that they are they hiding from us?"

Hiding in plain sight:

"Report: Dissidents Tracked Using Radiation"

"The feared East German secret police routinely sprayed suspected dissidents with a radioactive solution as a means of secretly tracking them, according to a new report."

hxxp://abcnews.go.com/International/story?id=81775&page=1

"Stasi Methods Used to Track G8 Opponents"

"The Scent of Terror

In a reminder of methods used by the East German Stasi secret police, German authorities are collecting human scents to trace activists they believe may try to violently disrupt the G8 summit in June. It's proving highly controversial"

hxxp://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/0,1518,484561,00.html

"Movies like Batman, show how they use secret tracking devices on individuals all the time. If they’re willing to show that to the general global public, then what advanced tracking technology have the elite got, that they are they hiding from us?"

Hiding in plain sight:

"Report: Dissidents Tracked Using Radiation"

"The feared East German secret police routinely sprayed suspected dissidents with a radioactive solution as a means of secretly tracking them, according to a new report."
http://abcnews.go.com/International/story?id=8177

"Stasi Methods Used to Track G8 Opponents"

"The Scent of Terror

In a reminder of methods used by the East German Stasi secret police, German authorities are collecting human scents to trace activists they believe may try to violently disrupt the G8 summit in June. It's proving highly controversial"
http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/0,151

Don't forget, everything you google and use a search engine for…..

will stay forever in the beautiful government databases….

Be good people……Enjoy each day, and do your best to have a good work ethic,

and take care of yourselves…………

this is such bullshit

If I found a tracking device on my car, I would stick it to a semi truck and send the police on a wild goose chase across the country 😀

Scientist and microwave weapons expert Barrie Trower goes into a lot of detail about how this is done and safety concerning the use of microwave emitting units. It's a long interview but worth watching through http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vScsPTZff4o

Does this just go for America & Europe? Or for the rest of the world as well…

We were talking about the space between us all And the people who hide themselves behind a wall of illusion Never glimpse the truth, then it's far too late, when they pass away We were talking about the love we all could share When we find it, to try our best to hold it there with our love With our love, we could save the world, if they only knew Try to realise it's all within yourself No one else can make you change And to see you're really only very small And life flows on within you and without you We were talking about the love that's gone so cold And the people who gain the world and lose their soul They don't know, they can't see, are you one of them? When you've seen beyond yourself then you may find Peace of mind is waiting there And the… Read more »

the bottom line is that if "they" want to find you, they will. If you get into trouble they can track everything now days.

Yes, the smart phones and everything we are seeing in technology is pointing to the NWO, however, we really need not to worry much because the stuff times will be when the aliens arrive and after the war.

After the alien war will be when you do not want to be tracked, so get rid of all technology at that time.

You can learn more about the upcoming events here http://adventofdeception.com/vision-nwo-2011/

i deleted my facebook account and never looked back. seriously guys, don't assume you will have no communication with friends without it. thats what they want you to think. the human race has survived this long without 24/7 instant communication…

we need to get off the internet and our phone – be outside, enjoy the simple things, keep away from the tv and let your mind rest!

You know, if I was living a normal life right now, I'd agree with you. But right now, we are literally living in a different city every 6-8 weeks all over the world. My family and I have no better way to see each other and talk but through skype and FB. I have kids that are growing, I have a two year old nephew, we like to see each other's pictures and chat. This is an isolating and lonely life. I don't know what I'd do without FB, sad to say. Takes a second to upload a ton of pics and video, I can't even email video over 25mb, so for my family it's the way they can see their grand kids grow up. Kids they are really attached to and used to see daily. Just don't put stupid stuff on there. It's about using the technology as smartly… Read more »

people!!!! you will know when they have a reason to look for you…trust me its not as bad as you think. unless we find out they are after people for just watching knowledgeable information then this would be a problem. what nobody understands is that any random person can pay a fee and get your criminal background your residing city all your felony's and misdameanor info through the internet already and nobody complains. i tried looking up my record to see if it worked and i got my grandfathers adress in another state and his criminal background (because we share the same name i am the 3rd) now that is already freedoms taken away….what if an employer looks me up they will see what is none of their freaking business

Like you can trace all the properties and assets of someone else. You just need to employ a solicitor and it's straightforward.

Not at all surprising. Prosecutors also get subpoenas from various phone companies to analyze text messages to implicate defendants. Be careful what you text, that information is not protected.

This is Martial.Law going into effect!

smart phone, blah blah blah blah blah…

everyone who has a "smart phone" i guess has this game called "ANGRY BIRD"

people keep fighting themselves playing that game.

im so sorry but if your phone is supposedly "smart" and "cool" and does everything

a flip or slide phone doesn't and everyone playing angry birds and stupid crap then

they must be stupid like for real your'e gonna tell me you have a smart phone and everybody

is playing the same game?whats the addiction with that freaking game anyways, DOESNT IT MAKE PLAYERS ANGRY? like come on now. i SWEAR this is a time for common sense to kick

in, like the "SMART PHONES" is obviously using them.

talk about dumbing down society, no offence

my advice: if you have to think twice about getting it, dont.

READ A BOOK INSTEAD 😀

well it's a good job I don't have a smartphone then, isn't it!?

I use mobile phones only in emergencies so I got myself a pay as you go one, nothing complicated. The first one I've ever bought as the rest of them were given to me.

There was a story on the news this morning saying that cell phones will be tracked this weekend for the Black Friday shopping because ''they'' want to see where people are doing most of their shopping and at what times. They even said that if anyone did not want to be a part of this, they need to simply turn off their cell phones.

all these iphone loving sheep need to wake up, it's like a religion to them, paying £500 for a phone that cost £10 to make and the workers in asia commit suicide on a daily basis, be better putting that money in to precious metals

There was a recent article online re Apple hoarding $54 billion in cash overseas to avoid US tax laws. The same article included info re deplorable working conditions & extremely low wages, etc. at these overseas "factories" where iphones are made, etc. It also mentioned some suicide cases.

I'm sure you can find the article via google.

Some comments with that article then pointed out all the good things Apple does for employees, etc. so I don't know. One thing is for sure: Apple products are too dang expensive.

Ummmm-Apple products WORK. Been using them at home and some at work since the 80's when they first came out. Have never had a virus or a problem, while all my friends with regular computers need a new one every couple years or get viruses (my whole family) and had to replace their computers. If you have a computer that lasts for YEARS, you get your money out of it. It like shoes, buy a 20 dollar pair at payless and they will last a month, buy a good pair and they last for years. Apple products are fabulous, well made, last forever and have amazing customer service. And no some of us don't have an iphone to play games. It's my camera, my video recorder in HD, my GPS, my phone, my contacts and allows me to find what I need and where it is. Handy when you move… Read more »

"Apple products are fabulous, well made, last forever and have amazing customer service. "

For shame… a majority of the net runs Linux/Unix and their uptimes far exceed your Apple product's uptime.

After spending over 20 years in the medical field, I am well acquainted with both the pain in the butt of unix and the like. No thanks, I'll take my mac. Obviously you are not aware that one can run a whole Cirque show, a whole concert, most creative music and graphics done on macs. And so much friendlier than a unix based system that I still had issues with ALL the time.

"Movies like Batman, show how they use secret tracking devices on individuals all the time. If they’re willing to show that to the general global public, then what advanced tracking technology have the elite got, that they are they hiding from us?"

Hiding in plain sight: !!

"Report: Dissidents Tracked Using Radiation" !!

"The feared East German secret police routinely sprayed suspected dissidents with a radioactive solution as a means of secretly tracking them, according to a new report."

hxxp://abcnews.go.com/International/story?id=81775&page=1

"Stasi Methods Used to Track G8 Opponents" !!

"The Scent of Terror

In a reminder of methods used by the East German Stasi secret police, German authorities are collecting human scents to trace activists they believe may try to violently disrupt the G8 summit in June. It's proving highly controversial"

hxxp://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/0,1518,484561,00.html

Apple products are 'too dang expensive'?

Perhaps that's true, but right now you have more money than Steve Jobs.

Why do you think they commit suicide?

Just saw this morning that retailers and marketers are monitoring your shopping habits while you peruse the mall. They claim its anonymous and if you want to opt out "turn off your phone." Though the "news reporter" stated this has been going on for years. So they just gave Americans actual notice, thereafter, you are voluntarily allowing yourself to be tracked oh but forget about ex post facto….Thus, walking in a mall is SYNONYMOUS to surfing the web-NO PRIVACY.

It's also why the police are so keen to criminalise people- they want to get as many people on a database as possible, even just for relatively minor offences. It's why a lot of 'crimes' have been invented- that didn't use to be part of police matters. Take stalking for example. It's become a very media-hyped crime, what with so-called celebrity stalkers in the news, and feminist groups encouraging ordinary women to report incidents of harassment and stalking, which are apparently commonplace (I've seen media articles quote statistics of 1 in 3 people, predominantly women, being stalked. But I even read an article where the police are encouraging 16 year old girls to report stalking and harassment incidents from teenage boys. If there's a guy or girl at school or college who has an icky crush on you and its unwanted, kids are encouraged make him or her feel the… Read more »

They want to control us at all times. Good luck with that:-) I personally am less interested in technology itself and more interesting in networking, security and white hat (?) stuff. Lmao. I mostly interested in that to create some modicum of privacy in this crazy wired world. The trans human agenda is so boring at times I want to hurl, but it really is all good. They are trying to pass all these laws at once, thinking we are stupid and we won't notice. My eyes are wide open and nothing's hidden. I probably worry too much about the centurions in D.C. My attention needs to focus much more on my prayer life and God– the only constant solution to the lack of privacy and other illuminazi craziness.

This society is becoming more Orwellian by the year!

There will be a giant push from behind again like 9/11. Then they can require all cars and all phones are tracked constantly. Very soon, if not already, good luck getting a resistance movement off the ground. The stories of French resistance exploits from 60 years ago will seem like magic.

Of course, if they ever get everybody chipped game over. They had Animals outside my house GPS tagged ten years ago. The county wildlife agent was doing a government study. There was no collar. It was an implant.

I'm not surprised anymore, things will get worse and worse from now on.

We can not surrender, but it's inevitable.

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