TAG | tracking
The ACLU just posted an article about a recent federal magistrate judge’s ruling. It is a somewhat bizarre case.
The DEA had an arrest warrant for a doctor suspected selling prescription pain killer drugs for cash. They then requested a court order to obtain his real time location information from his cell provider.
The judge went along, but then published a 30 page opinion stating that no order or warrant should have been required for the location information because the suspect had no expectation of location privacy. If he wanted privacy, all he had to have done is to turn off his phone (which would have prevented the collection of the information at all, not just established his expectation).
So, if this line of reasoning is picked up and becomes precedent, it is clear than anyone on the run needs to keep their phone off and / or use burner phones paid for with cash.
My concern is that, if there is no expectation of privacy, is there anything preventing government entities from requesting location information on whole populations without any probable cause or court order.
While I think that the use of location information in this case was completely appropriate, I would sleep better if there was the check and balance of the need for a court order before getting it.
This is another situation where technology has run ahead of the law. The Fourth Amendment was written in a time where information was in tangible form, and the only time it was generally in the hands of third parties, was when it was in the mail. Therefor search of mail in transit was specially protected.
Today, cloud and telecommunication providers serve much the same purpose as the US Postal Service, and are used in similar ways. It is high time that the same protection extended to snail mail be applied to the new high tech communications infrastructures we use today.
The House Judiciary Committee is going to be discussing the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. There is a chance that they will strengthen it.
This act was written decades ago, before there were any real cloud solutions. Email was downloaded by your email client, and immediately deleted from the server. They law assumed that any email left on a server more than 180 days had been abandoned, and so no warrant was required for law enforcement to obtain it.
These days, with services like gmail, we tend to keep our email on the servers for years, with no thought that it has been abandoned. Law enforcement is opposing reforms of this law because it would make their work more difficult. Doubtless it would, as does almost any civil liberty.
Earlier this month Zoe Lofgren introduced the Online Communications and Geolocation Protection act, amending ECPA. It would require a warrant to obtain cell phone location information. There is clearly some momentum for reform.
It has long been known in security circles that many printers embed nearly invisible watermarks in all printed documents which uniquely identify the printer used.
SpringyLeaks reports that a recent FOIA request revealed the names of printer companies who embed such markings and have worked with law enforcement to identify the printers used in various cases.
The article also suggest that these watermarks can be used to aid reconstruction of shredded documents.
Google and other online advertising companies like Vibrant Media, Media Innovation Group, and PointRoll, are using a flaw in Safari on iOS to track you despite your privacy settings.
iOS Safari is set by default to reject tracking cookies from 3rd party websites. That means that unless you are directly and intentionally interacting with a site it should not be able to cookie and track you. Specifically that is intended to prevent tracking by advertisers displaying banner ads on websites.
The hack is that these advertisers use a script within the website to cause submit an invisible web form to the advertising website, which looks to Safari like you directly interacted with that site and so allows the site to send a cookie. Another flaw in Safari causes those cookies to be returned to the 3rd party sites once they have been set.
Apple is saying that they will address the issue. Google is blaming Apple for breaking with web standards (even though almost all browsers support blocking 3rd party cookies iOS Safari is unusual in making this the default).
- On your iOS device (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch) go to “Settings”, select “Safari”, scroll down and “Clear Cookies and Data”. Do this frequently.
- Don’t log into Google or other social media sites through the browser, only use the dedicated apps.
- Use those social media apps to “like” or “+1″ content, rather than doing so in the browser.
- Protect your IP address with a tool like Anonymizer Universal so these sites can’t just use your IP address in place of cookies to track you when you are at home or work on a WiFi connection with a long term IP address.
The WSJ had the first article I saw on this, but it is paywalled.
John Battelle’s searchblog tries to look at this issue from both sides.
It looks like Microsoft got caught using “evercookie” or “supercookie” technologies to recreate tracking cookies even after users have tried to delete them from their browsers.