More good stuff on surveillance – 6/28

Here is my thirteenth list of good stuff on our surveillance society that I’d like talk about but only have time to recommend with a paragraph.

6/6 – Wired – Some Governments Have Backdoor Access to Listen in on Calls, Vodafone saysVodafone is a major telecommunications provider in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. It released a report hinting at the extent of government surveillance of calls on its network. The U.S. isn’t the only government accessing everything it wants. In an unspecified number of countries, the government has backdoor access and can listen in & record anything and everything without Vodafone even knowing it. Some countries submit a request, like Italy which submitted over 600,000 requests in a twelve month timeframe. It is illegal for Vodafone to say anything about government surveillance in 9 countries.

6/1 – Scientific American – A Phone That Lies for You – How ‘bout an app that puts false data on your phone? Police looking at a suspected drug peddlers phone might see that he only calls his mom. Security staff giving a cursory review to a journalist’s phone might see innocuous calls recently and the only place visited was the beach. Sometime after the search, real data reappears. That’s the app produced by a researcher.  Wouldn’t survive a really serous search or review of cell phone company data, but would be good enough to walk away from initial screening.

Think about the complications in trial. The phone has conflicting data. Some of which, the prosecutor would argue, were created by the defendant. So only believe the data that supports the prosecutor, says the defense team. Result? Good chance of reasonable doubt.

Apps like this will probably be part of the ‘arms race’ between the surveillance state and those who don’t want the government to know everything about everyone.

6/27 – The Hill – Thousands targeted by spying orders – The Office of Director of National Intelligence acknowledged targeting 90,000  people in 2013 for tracking of their communications. The FBI issued at least 19,000 National Security Letters in 2013. Keep in mind the 19,000 recipients of the NSL are not allowed to discuss them or even admin in public they received such a letter. Keep that in mind next time you hear a corportate denial of cooperating with federal spying programs. Here’s an example of a completely unbelievable denial.

6/25 – Wall Street Journal – Supreme Court:  Police Need Warrants to Search Cellphone Data – A small bit of good news. If you are arrested, the police can no longer go through your cellphone, gather everything they can find, reconstruct your life history, just so they can look for something that might be incriminating. The argument is that going through everything accessible on your phone is no different than going through your pockets to see if  you have any weapons.  Chief Justice Roberts pointed out the foolishness of that concept:

“That is like saying a ride on horseback is materially indistinguishable from a flight to the moon,”

Ridicule is a useful tool. Even for the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

Requiring a warrant for searching a cellphone is a big deal. I hope it is just a first step to restoring some shred of privacy.

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