ACLU Sues Feds for More Information About Cell Phone Tracking


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The feds have been using "stingray" technology for years to mimic cell phone towers and trick mobile devices into revealing their location. Often, they disguise the technology in court submissions as less-intrusive, older-tech pen registers and trap and trace devices — a legal scam that at least one court said is A-OK. Now, the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California wants to know a little bit more about the government's use of these devices that have have the potential to turn iPhones and tablet computers into so many tracking beacons. To get the information, the ACLU first filed a FOIA request, and has now turned to the courts.

Writes Linda Lye for the ACLU of Northern California:

It's entirely unclear whether the government, when using Stingrays, seeks warrants based on probable cause, seeks statutory orders based on a lesser showing or doesn't seek any court authorization at all. And in those instances where the government does seek some form of court authorization, it's also unclear how forthcoming the government is with the courts about the technology it proposes to use. Court orders authorizing surveillance are typically issued under seal, so it is extremely difficult to gain a picture of the government's surveillance practices until years later, when the issue eventually arises in criminal cases on motions to suppress. Obtaining the Department of Justice's policies governing use of this device is therefore the best way to get a comprehensive picture of the government's use of this invasive surveillance tool. We hope our lawsuit will provide some answers to the many questions involving stingrays.

The lawsuit against the Department of Justice comes only after an April FOIA request that the DOJ agreed to grant expedited processing, given growing concerns over government surveillance. Since then … crickets. Says the ACLU complaint, "the agency has provided Plaintiff with no records or any information regarding the status of the search."

It's likely that all agencies of the federal government are feeling a bit besieged over matters of domestic snooping and privacy violations. They might feel less so if they refrained in indulging in such activities.

The full complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief, ACLU of Northern California v. Department of Justice, is here (PDF).

NEXT: British Legislators To Recall Murdoch To Clarify Phone-Hacking Evidence

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  1. Nothing to hide, nothing to fear!

    1. Every good progressive knows that a community is like a family, and its government leaders are like parents to the masses.

      Technology enables our current president to transcend that analogy; not only is he a father figure, but also a messiah. A messiah needs to have total information awareness.

      Good parents know where their children are, who they’re hanging out with, and what they’re doing. A messiah even knows what they are thinking.

  2. OT:…

    But isn’t this a bit offensive? Aside from the blatant fear-mongering about what a potential Republican President “could do” if they got to appoint Ginsburg’s replacement on the court, isn’t their a bit of agist-sexism in such a request for her to retire? And does Ginsburg’s career have to end for the Good of the Party?

    1. About the author

      After spending several years touring the country as a stand up comedian, Ed Brayton tired of explaining his jokes to small groups of dazed illiterates

      ‘Nuff said

      1. Jesus.

    2. They’re pinko dipshits who shit their pants at the thought of a constitutionalist, or even just a garden-variety quasi-Scalia, taking her place on the Court.

      That’s their only concern.

      1. I can understand the twisted logic behind the push to get Ginsburg to retire, but people (especially Brayton) on the Left, who have been sharply critical of the Obama administration, should be more the skeptical of the supposed “good” that could come out of an Obama appointment versus a GOP appointment.

        1. He might be a consistent leftist, but he’s still a leftist, which means that he’d still prefer a shitty fellow leftist to make SCOTUS appointments than a non-leftist, whether it’s Rick Perry, or someone even WE’d approve of, like a potential President Paul.

          1. Well he’d really hate anyone *we’d* approve of, even more than the guy the most rightwing, conservative president would choose.

    3. All things Good of the Party should happen.

    4. But I thought the GOP was doomed for the next 100 years? Why worry about a Republican President in 2016?

  3. It’s likely that all agencies of the federal government are feeling a bit besieged over matters of domestic snooping and privacy violations.

    “We’re only civil servants trying to do what’s best for the American People, so morale is just terrible!”

    1. How can we help you if we don’t know everything about you?

  4. Until every single one of these agencies is abolished and their powers formally forbidden, I won’t be happy, so I guess I’d better stock up on alcohol, because it’s going to be unending sadness for me.

    1. Luckily we have a Bureau to keep track of that.

      1. /Alcoholism.

  5. It just keeps coming. They’ve been doing this since it was possible, obviously, and now the chickens are (sort of) coming home to roost.

    It makes sense if you think about it. These people, they’ve always been the same; they’ve always wanted to be able to do this. We see it in the comments from former Stasi members. And as soon as it was possible to start, I guarantee they did. And as storage got cheaper, they did it more.

    It’s endemic. There are going to be more revelations. Because to the statist authoritarian, this was and is their wet dream. It wasn’t even conceivable that they wouldn’t immediately do this once they could.

    1. But don’t you see? The only reason the socialist/communist revolutions didn’t succeed in the past was that they didn’t have enough data. We can fix that now. We can build the perfect system. Everyone will be happy and unicorns will shit rainbows.

      1. Why is the end result of the statist authoritarian’s dream always a country-sized prison?

        1. You get nothing more than you need and a free re-education. It’s wonderful.

          1. “You can’t spell ‘free education’ with ‘re-education’.” — Me

            1. *without

        2. Why is the end result of the statist authoritarian’s dream always a country-sized prison?

          Because they imagine that they will be the wardens.

    2. Epi, why won’t you just let them help you?

      1. I don’t think I want that kind of “help”.

        1. See, that’s just an indication that we need to help you even harder. Its the one’s who don’t know they need help that need the most help.

          1. One of those “rugged individualists”

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