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The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's inspector general is investigating whether Customs and Border Protection's purchase of cellphone location data without warrants is improper. The agency has paid nearly half a million dollars to access a database compiled by a marketer that collects data from cellphone apps. In 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the government must generally obtain a warrant to obtain such data from cellphone carriers, but Customs and Border Protection argues that because it is buying the information from a third party, not carriers, the decision does not apply.

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  1. Fuck the CBP on this. This is no more than the difference between stealing and buying stolen property.

    1. Wait, how is this information stolen? Pretty sure there are a dozen apps who make their paychecks by getting customers to agree to give away their location data, so they can then sell it to marketers.

      This seems the equivalent of buying a tell all book from someones secretary to see where they really were last year.

      1. Maybe not technically stolen, but, it certainly reeks of theft. Good reason to avoid said apps like the plague. Seems to me like when my boss issued me a company credit card to use for building supplies, hardware, rental equipment, etc. It’s not a stolen card, but, if I were to use it at the liquor store it would be considered theft.

      2. You’re missing the point. If X is illegal for the government to do (without a warrant), X is supposed to remain equally illegal for government to use a company to do for them.

        1. In an ideal world, sure.

          In this one, Third Party Doctrine killed that a long time ago.

        2. I’m thinking its more along the lines of its illegal for the government to come into my house without a warrant, but its perfectly legal for them to come in if I invite them.

          1. I’m thinking it’s more along the lines of its illegal for the government to come into my house without a warrant, but its perfectly legal for them to come in if I tell a company where I live

            1. Well, Third Party Doctrine says that, yes, it is legal.

    2. It’s not stolen though.

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  3. These guys are in big trouble. The government doesn’t pay for information it just steals it. They need more training.

    1. Pretty sure they didn’t hold a bake sale for that half million dollars. Purchasing stolen information with stolen money is pretty top notch government fuckery.

      1. Bonus points if they used asset forfeiture to pay for the data.

  4. Was any of that data for citizens deeper than 100 miles from the border? If so they have to share that data with other domestic agencies or face jurisdictional disputes.

    1. Remember that “100 miles from the border” includes any international point of entry, including airports in the middle of the country.

      1. Plus 100 air miles around any sanctuary city our county.

    2. I think they figured out that in the entire lower 48, only a few square miles in the middle of Montana and Wyoming didn’t fit the 100-mile rule, being far enough from borders, shorelines, and INTL airports.

  5. Dummies that use “free” apps contribute to this problem.

    1. There are plenty of paid apps that do the same thing

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  7. “…but Customs and Border Protection argues that because it is buying the information from a third party, not carriers, the decision does not apply.”

    Hope other law enforcement doesn’t catch on to this.

    “Okay, Fingers, break into that house and look for drugs and guns. If you find any, come tell us where they are, and we’ll pay you $100.00. No, don’t worry about getting in trouble. We’ll cover for you.”

    1. That is a “confidential informant”.

    2. There have actually been court cases on this kind of activity. Not admissible.

      But where we are with phones and a new frontier for the government to make new rules with.

  8. I had a “burner” phone for a while. Did not have any of my personal information on it. I needed it for developing a phone app. Basically a blank SIM card. Turns out that’s pretty damned difficulty in the US. Easy as pie in Europe, where you own your SIM card but not your phone, but nearly opposite in the US.

    I got my blank SIM card but I had to do a lot of asplaining as to why I needed one. Not legal asplaining, just why I wouldn’t rather have a free iPhone with a two year contract.

    Imagine if we did it like Europe. We own our information and carry it with us, but rent our phones.

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      1. See above.

  10. They’re a private corporation, they can do whatever they want.

  11. She shall be known by the cellular phone she carries.

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  13. Technically, it’s hearsay and should be inadmissible unless someone informed at the “source” is willing to testify, in court, that it’s factual data.

    Personally, I’d be happy to sell CBP reams of bullshit data since there’s virtually nil chance of blowback coming to me. Aw, they might cancel my contract next year but I still get to keep this years half million smacks. Shockingly, I’m ok with that scenario.

    1. Hearsay is admissible if corroborated.

  14. “Customs and Border Protection argues that because it is buying the information from a third party, not carriers, the decision does not apply stolen goods from a fence, not the thief, it can keep them.”

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