Tag: electronic surveillance

From Stingrays to Dirt Boxes: Evolving Surveillance Techniques

Last week I wrote about deceptive law enforcement techniques, focusing on new details about law enforcement's use of stingray devices. The devices are small enough to fit in an undercover vehicle. The device creates a very strong but fake cell tower signal which causes phones nearby (perhaps in the whole neighborhood) to connect to it. When the phones connect, the device then captures a lot of personal information. This is particularly helpful to police when they suspect a certain person of say dealing drugs, and know where he is, but don't know his phone number, because he gets a new throw-away phone every few weeks. But it's problematic because the device is capturing the same personal information from all phones in the area. It's a dragnet.

Move over, stingrays. The Wall St Journal reports similar devices called "dirtboxes" are being used by agents on airplanes, allowing them to capture the data on thousands of cell phones during the course of a single flight. [More...]

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2013 Wiretap Report Released

On July 2, the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts released its annual statistical report on federal and state wiretaps for 2013. The report is here.

In a nutshell:

  • The number of federal and state wiretaps authorized in 2013 reached a ten year high -- there were 3,576.
  • Only 1 wiretap application was rejected, and that was by a state court. (Number of requests: 3577)
  • 87% of all wiretaps were for drug offenses.
  • Average cost of a federal wiretap: $43,361.


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Verizon to Reveal Info About Demands for Phone Records

Verizon says it will publish greater details on the records requests made by law enforcement, beginning in early 2014. Here is Verizon's statement.

To the extent permitted by applicable U.S. and foreign laws and regulations, Verizon’s transparency report will identify the total number of law enforcement agency requests received from government authorities in criminal cases.

In addition, the report will break out this data under categories such as subpoenas, court orders and warrants. Verizon will also provide other details about the legal demands it receives, as well as information about requests for information in emergencies.

Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter and Yahoo already publish transparency reports.

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9/11 Legacy: Americans' Loss of Privacy Rights

The LA Times reports on a key legacy of the 9/11 attacks: the exponential increase in governmental spying on Americans.

Thanks to new laws and technologies, authorities track and eavesdrop on Americans as they never could before, hauling in billions of bank records, travel receipts and other information. In several cases, they have wiretapped conversations between lawyers and defendants, challenging the legal principle that attorney-client communication is inviolate.

As one law professor puts it:

"We are caught in the middle of a perfect storm in which every thought we communicate, every step we take, every transaction we enter into is captured in digital data and is subject to government collection."

One we give the Government new power, it rarely gives it back. It's important to note that this legacy was not caused by the terrorists, but by our own lawmakers in Washington who let fear drive their actions. We have not become safer, we are only less free.

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Chief Justice Roberts Appoints Two New FISA Court Judges

Chief Justice John Roberts has appointed two new federal judges to the secret FISA Court, replacing two judges whose 7 year terms are up.

They are U.S. District Judges Jennifer Coffman of Kentucky and F. Dennis Saylor of Massachusetts. Judge Coffman was appointed to the federal bench by Bill Clinton and Judge Coffman was appointed by G.W. Bush. [More...]

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