Fourth Amendment

So Long as You Carry a Cellphone, the Government Can Track You

A phone in your pocket may as well be a GPS beacon strapped to your ankle.

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Cell phones are convenient devices, handily connecting us with loved ones, paying bills, accessing information—and treacherously reporting on our every move. Worse, even after the Supreme Court weighed in, many government agencies still insist that they have the right to pull up that tracking data to see our whereabouts. It's increasingly apparent that, if you have your phone in your pocket, you may as well have a GPS beacon strapped to your ankle. If you want anonymity from the government, leave the gadget at home.

That point was illustrated in the wake of the Capitol riot, when the authorities pulled cell phone records to see who was present.

"In the hours and days after the Capitol riot, the FBI relied in some cases on emergency orders that do not require court authorization in order to quickly secure actual communications from people who were identified at the crime scene," The Intercept reported this week. "Investigators have also relied on data 'dumps' from cellphone towers in the area to provide a map of who was there, allowing them to trace call records — but not content — from the phones."

The data collected by people's phones and the apps they use, often compiled by marketing firms, is amazingly detailed. An individual "outraged by the events of Jan. 6" supplied data on participants in the day's events to The New York Times, whose writers were thoroughly creeped out by the information.

"While there were no names or phone numbers in the data, we were once again able to connect dozens of devices to their owners, tying anonymous locations back to names, home addresses, social networks and phone numbers of people in attendance," Charlie Warzel and Stuart A. Thompson wrote.

Marketing databases have become a favorite resource for government agencies, which purchase the information as an attempted end-run around Fourth Amendment protections. The theory has been that, since the data is "voluntarily" provided to a third party there's no privacy from the government required.

"The Trump administration has bought access to a commercial database that maps the movements of millions of cellphones in America and is using it for immigration and border enforcement," The Wall Street Journal reported last year. "The location data is drawn from ordinary cellphone apps, including those for games, weather and e-commerce, for which the user has granted permission to log the phone's location."

The FBI also made use of phone location data, which led to a legal challenge that went all the way to the Supreme Court. In Carpenter v. United States (2018) the justices noted that "A majority of the Court has already recognized that individuals have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the whole of their physical movements. Allowing government access to cell-site records … contravenes that expectation." As a result, the court ruled in the opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts, "the Government will generally need a warrant to access CSLI [cell-site location information]."

You'd think that would be the end of it as far as government agencies accessing the location beacon features of cell phones go, but you'd be mistaken. Cell phones track us in two ways: through CSLI generated when phones contact cell towers, and through GPS data collected by the apps installed on phones. CSLI isn't yet as accurate as GPS location data, but it's keyed to specific phone numbers, while GPS data is connected to mobile advertising IDs that are, supposedly, anonymous. Since it's not directly connected to individuals and wasn't addressed in Carpenter, government agencies maintain they can still gather cell phone GPS data.

"[I]t is our understanding that the Carpenter decision concerned historical Cell Site Location Information which is distinct from the opt-in app data available on the Venntel platform," the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recently told the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) in response to a query about the use of commercial databases such as Venntel.

The TIGTA query was prompted by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), after reports of the IRS engaging in warrantless tracking of suspects. Tax collectors, just like the FBI and immigration officials, appreciate the use of third-party location data. The IRS argument didn't convince the inspector general.

"The Carpenter decision did not directly address the use of GPS data, but future courts may apply the same logic to limit the use of GPS data without a warrant," the TIGTA letter, first reported by The Wall Street Journal, noted. "Our concern is that the Supreme Court rejected the Government's argument in Carpenter that CSLI is truly voluntarily provided to the phone carriers. The Court's rationale was that phone users do not truly voluntarily agree to share the information given the necessity of phones in our society. Courts may apply similar logic to GPS data sold by marketers, particularly if the Government identifies ways to translate the alphanumeric code to identify the phone's owner or has other means of identifying the phone's owner."

That's a well-placed concern as the report in The New York Times demonstrates. "The supposedly anonymous ID could be matched with other databases containing the same ID, allowing us to add real names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses and other information about smartphone owners in seconds," Warzel and Thompson pointed out.

Advertising IDs can be disabled, theoretically making it harder to track a cell phone through app-gathered GPS data. But CSLI data pinpoints a phone's location every it pings a tower. That data is now subject to warrant requirements, but it exists—the FBI gathered it after the Capitol riot. And GPS data will continue to be available without a warrant until the courts weigh in on the issue.

That means that anybody who wants to participate in a protest unmonitored, engage in clandestine meetings, or travel untracked has to, at a minimum, leave behind all cell phones and other modern electronic devices connected to their names and identities. A burner phone purchased with cash and free of social media accounts is probably fine, but that's as far as it goes. The conveniences of the connected modern world come with a steep price: our anonymity.

NEXT: Belly of the Beast

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  1. Even if the government were barred from collecting GPS information without a warrant, couldn’t they just purchase that information from a service that collects that information? I don’t see how you can argue that the government needs a warrant for something that’s freely available to purchase. Of course, there may not currently be a private company that offers that information for sale, but if there were a market for that information – hint, hint – there easily could be.

    1. You can argue that the government needs a warrant by the same logic that says you can’t outsource your violations of the Fourth Amendment by hiring “private” police or your violations of the First Amendment by outsourcing your censorship. When the government buys information that’s “freely available”, it turns the seller into a de facto agent of the government and, at least for the purposes of that transaction, subject to the same limitations as the government.

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      2. It does not.

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    3. the US Constitiuution guarantess tht we EACH and ALL be secure in our persons, houses, papers, and effects. WHen I agree to provide Bob’s Hardware certain information, HE does not have my permissioin tothen privide it to FedGov to use to put my person, houses, or effects at risk. No, I said BOB”S can have it, not Uncle Stupid.

      The fact that information may be availble for a price on the open market does not necessarily put me at risk. But many times, that same information being tendered Government DOES indeed put me at risk.

      You fail to consider that THIS NATION is founded on the underlying principle that we, the governed, consent to be governed in certain ways, and thus tender our authority to the government to govern us per THOSE limits. Thatgovernment having data on our every move is NOT within our consent to be governed. Maybe yours, but certinly not MINE. When government have al the data and control, they are no longer lawfully constituted.

      NowIF gummit get on the blood trail of something they tink I’ve done, fine… find someone who has plausible knowldge of my alledged offenses, have ghem attest to ath knowledge, and issue warrant on his representation. But UNTIL some dweeb in gummit have some speicific knowledge of some way I am remiss, gummit have NO BUSINESS persuing me. I COULD have been in Washington DC just driving through the city on my way to Jacksonville Florida to visit family. My cell phone COULD have indicated my presence near the “scene of the crime” on 6 January.But until they FIRST have probable cause to locate me there AND that whilst there I engeged in specific criminal activity, AND get the warrant on probable cause. they MUST NOT initiateany probes into my “person, house, papers, or effects”. Toda,”papers” can and does, at law, include elctronic records,such as my cell phone dta.

      Best cure for the unconstitutinoal intrusion would be to carry a farrday cage… put the phone into airplane mode, pop it into its litte farraday coccoon, and “go dark? When I’m well cear of DC and maybe two days later, maybe take it out and turn it back on, some three states distant.
      They are behaving more and more kile Mr. K’s tolrmentors as described in Franz Kafka’s The Trial. Read that.. and compare to what goes on these days.

  2. To protect our democracy from Republican fascism, we might need to surrender a few antiquated “civil liberties”. What worth are civil liberties if your vote doesn’t count because of the electoral college or your undocumented status as an American?

    1. We should all “take one for the team”.

    2. Not to worry. The next Voting Rights Act will solve that with “implied voting”. The ruling party will exercise your vote for you–in your best interest, of course.

      1. Or just go straight to the polling results, since those are more scientific and less prone to voter suppression than actual balloting.

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    3. This isn’t a red/blue left/right thing. This is free people vs. the state. There are heroes and villains in both parties on this issue.

    4. Or if your vote is suppressed because your signature varies from month to month.

      1. When I was about 15 or 16, my parents had a conversation with me about this, and recommended strongly that I choose an “official” public name with intent to use it for all signing of legal and financial records forever. I suspect that canny parents still do this; I did with my children and expect they will do with theirs.

        The rationale given then was that variable identifiers would be likely to lead to confusion and were common tools of people engaging in dodgy activities where they thought the confusion and ambiguity might be helpful. It made sense to me then and still does.

        1. Could you explain this to me like I’m five? Are you saying that your name on your birth certificate is one name and your legal name is something different? Or that in non-legal / financial situations, you have an alias? Thanks!

        2. Wait,,,,what? By all means, please elaborate.

    5. Funny how it’s usually the Democrat Fascists who are always trying to limit — or take away altogether — civil liberty, though.

      The Electoral College is how the sane parts of the country have a say in who gets to be President — not just the termite hills run by “Progressives.” Thus, that liberty must be destroyed by Fascists.

      Likewise the idea that only American citizens should vote.

    6. This brand of team politics is exactly why things are the way they are…and getting worse.

      Republican fascism bad. Democrat fascism good.

      You fucking clown.

      1. Parody account; suggest you ignore.

  3. Heh, soon it will probably be a crime to be caught outside of your home without a cell phone, since leaving home without it obviously proves that you’re up to no good and thus are trying to evade tracking.

    1. Heh, soon it will probably be a crime to be caught outside of your home without a cell phone, since leaving home without it obviously proves that you’re up to no good and thus are trying to evade tracking.
      FIFY

      1. Don’t they call this a lockdown?

        1. Concentration camps are expensive.

          It’s much cheaper to simply declare an emergency that requires people to stay inside.

          That old song is due for an update, to say “Step OUTSIDE, the Man come, and take you away . . .”

    2. It’s for your safety, citizen.

      Don’t you want to BE SAFE?

      Besides, Working Class Joe from Scranton says it’s the patriotic thing to do.

  4. Redington was right.

    1. Could you elaborate on that, please? I assume you mean Reddington from “The Blacklist”?

      1. Yeah, my brain meant Reddington, but my fingers were out getting coffee.

        When the series started, he would only meet in person in a secure location, through meetings arranged by others, and never carried or even used a cell phone.

        1. Yeah but what kind of life is that? In the show I would not have traded places with him for all the money in the world. He had a lot of it but what did it buy him.

          Kinda like Breaking Bad that way.

          1. I imagine that in the time he wasn’t on screen, he was buried hip deep in pussy.

  5. Even if you leave the phone at home, with cctv cameras everywhere and license plate readers on every street light, it’s pretty much impossible to go anywhere without being tracked.

    1. But now we get away with wearing a “cloth face covering”. Combined with a hat and sunglasses, the cameras can record all they want.
      The variations of sizes and shapes of “cloth face coverings” and hats should be good for a long time.
      (if you really need to go out and do something nefarious like visit a business)

    2. I think these posts are in some way tracked.

      1. I think you can pretty much guarantee that our comments are tracked. I’d be shocked if there wasn’t an FBI file entitled “Unicorn Abattoir”.

        1. Woodchipper woodchipper woodchipper woodchipper woodchipper!

        2. No shit Sherlock – are you forgetting who owns Reason?

        3. Poor Tlupa. Can you imagine the sorry-ass FBI agent that has to read through the shit of Tulpa, or Sqrlsy? What a thankless job.

      2. Read the terms and be sure – – – – – – – –

    3. I use infrared license plate holders on my cars. Using red light/speed cameras for tickets is illegal in my state but they still put them up on every traffic light and there are city police that have them on their cars.

      1. Have you ever been pulled over for ‘obstructing’ the view of your license plate?

    4. This why there is an uptick in carjackings in Chicago. Drive by shootings. They snatch the car, use it that night and dump it.

  6. A coworker tested positive for covid. The next day he drove to the next town to drop off some mail. His phone alerted him, “The owner of this phone has tested positive for COVID19 and is restricted from traveling outside of the town where they live.”

    1. Your coworker is an ass.

      1. He didn’t say he came into contact with anyone. He just dropped off some mail. If he has COVID, don’t we all kinda want him to drive out to rural Montana or Wyoming and not make contact with anyone for two weeks?

        1. No, I said he was an ass because I know the guy.

        2. This is in rural Maine.

          1. “rural” as in Falmouth, or rural as in Deblois or really-effing-at-the-end-of-the-world rural like T9R14 (or similar)?

            1. North of Disgusta. The only grocery store in town is an Irving. But there is an Irving.

              1. Crap….. so much for my hope of finding sanity by returning to the frozen north.

                1. The online covid registration asks for a phone number. Once he tested positive they tracked his phone.
                  North of Disgusta is still as sane as it had been.

                  1. OK, that’s better, at least for those of us who think a place where people treat other decently is still worth seeking out.

              2. He was the 142nd Fastest Gun in the West.

      2. And you are an asshole, but neither of those things is his point, which you studiously missed.

    2. He’s lucky his phone did not tase him.

    3. “The owner of this phone has tested positive for COVID19 and is restricted from traveling outside of the town where they live.”

      Cedar Creek?

      1. Ok, fine, I won’t leave the town where I live. But I will go to the Walmart down the street and cough on everything.

  7. Oh come on! Give me a break! The New York Times and I assume the author is creeped out all of the sudden? Like this is suddenly news? Give me a break! Just being online and using computerized devices compromises one’s anonymity.

    Instead Reason needs to report information on how we can opt-out of a lot of this tracking and surveillance. And by that I mean not just going in to your Google or Apple account settings to turn it all off because there is more to it than that.

  8. Your cell phone can be used to listen to everything within reach of the microphone – including when you think the phone is turned off. This was worked out years ago by government security services. If you really need privacy, leave the phone at home. In a box.

    1. I have heard this particular claim often enough to wonder why people think a turned-off phone is capable of doing anything other than respond to the ON button. Phones I have turned off don’t consume any battery power, other than the slow drain of all LiON batteries, certainly not enough to be listening for the odd NSA command to collect and transmit microphone data.

      1. It would also require a vast conspiracy between governments and every phone manufacturer. Doesn’t seem likely.

        1. “Every phone manufacturer” being Communist China. Seems very likely.

          1. I agree they would love that capability. I don’t think the capability exists.

            There are Ethernet chips with wake-on-LAN and similar capabilities. But they require a running computer and Ethernet interface. One of the biggest drains on cell phones is reading weak cell signals, and phones don’t show that kind of drain. And turning a phone on is a slow process and requires human input in the form of an encryption pass phrase (if so locked) and SIM car PIN. It also vibrates. Disabling or circumventing all this is beyond reason.

            1. They probably have the capability via malware, but don’t routinely use it because they don’t want everyone to find out about it – the battery thing would be noticeable.

    2. I’ve always thought cellphone manufacturers could promote the sale of having a hardware-switched camera & microphone. Still waiting…..

      1. The Librem phone. It runs on Linux and has a hard kill switch for the battery, wifi, cell towers and GPS tracking.

        1. And yes, the mic and camera too

          1. All be… Awesome!

  9. ‘An individual “outraged by the events of Jan. 6” supplied data on participants in the day’s events to The New York Times, whose writers were thoroughly creeped out by the information.’

    Uh, sure they are. Unless tracking can be used to further the aims of the progressive-fascist state.

    1. Indeed so. The Times also ran a series some months back expressing their outrage at the fact that a data set “made available to them by a person with access” could be used to track and, with high accuracy, identify individuals; and they demonstrated it by doing so. I thought it quite strange, and mentioned it in their comment string, the authors had committed what I thought an egregious invasion of personal privacy, an invasion for which a law enforcement agent would require a warrant, issued by a judge, and could receive significant punishment for failure to obtain such a warrant.

      As Carter Page is well aware, the warrant process is imperfect, but the agents who got a communication surveillance warrant to invade his privacy had, at least, to sit down and fabricate a plausible scenario of criminal activity and document it well enough to persuade a federal judge to issue the warrant. All the Times staffers had to do was rummage through the data provided them unlawfully, presuming that because they were immune from sanction because “press.” My reaction, if they had occasioned to track me would have been to send them away with notice that I would be consulting an attorney; I thought the permission they got from their targets was nearly as appalling as the fact they had the lack of ethical restraint to do the tracking at all.

  10. I’m not saying cell phones were designed to be spying devices, but if you set out to create a perfect spying device, it would look an awful lot like a cell phone.

  11. Pretty much from day One of modern cell phones, I’ve been preaching this. The response has been (and largely remains) a chorus “if you’re not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to be afraid of”.

    Well, I”m just glad that “it can’t happen here”. /sarc

    The last free American generation is almost gone. It was nice while it lasted.

    1. Yep.
      At least we will die off and leave the next generation to reap the whirlwind.

      1. They deserve it.

    2. The last free generation of American is LONG gone.

      That last generation of American who even CARED about freedom was probably gen X.

      1. No so sure about that first part. We boomers (yeah, why not, it fits) grew up incredibly free, and it kept getting better for some time, and not just for us but for the whole world (thinking of the night the Germans danced on the wall). Personally, I think the end started with the ValueJet crash and the demand for ID everyplace.

        Somehow, most of the boomers lost their way, and traded freedom for luxury and comfort and an illusion of safety. The millenials think we fucked the world, and we did, but not with CO2 and deficits as they claim, but by not standing up for individual rights (life, liberty and property).

        May John Locke have mercy upon our souls!

        1. Still waiting for the pictures of some demonstrator carrying a sign;
          “Mr. Biden, tear down this wall!”

  12. The funny thing is that normally I turn off all this tracking and don’t allow apps to track me.
    But Allstate offered me a discount on my car insurance if I would allow an app to track the time I drive and the speed I drive.
    As long as I stay under 80 miles an hour, and don’t drive after midnight, I get a huge discount on my auto insurance
    Since I paid $1000 a month for the five drivers in my house I jumped at the chance to get a $500 per month discount.
    So I guess if I take part in an insurrection, or have to dispose of a body out in the Everglades, I’ll leave my cell phone at home.

    1. Everybody has their price.

  13. Relax, it’s just meta data. Once you’re identified as a suspect the police can request a warrant for your records to find out where you were at a given time. It’s not like they just analyze all the metadata to identify who was at the insurrection. Oh wait….

  14. Well, they can track your cell phone, not you. Put your cell phone in your wife’s pickup truck as she goes shopping, then pick up a burner flip phone at Saul Goodman’s Burner Phone and Legal Advice Emporium.

  15. Search the interwebs for “Faraday bag” and buy yourself one posthaste. Or just sacrifice the tinfoil from one of your hats. Even some scrap window-screen works in a pinch.

    Seriously though, I don’t need freaking push notifications every second while I’m driving, because I really don’t care if the Broncos signed a new quarterback or if there’s a flash flood warning three counties away. I realize when I actually do want to call someone or read the brilliant journalism here, I’d have to take it out of the pouch, but that doesn’t seem like too much of a burden. I’m not some twelve-year old girl who would like, literally die, just die, if she doesn’t know what her friends are doing on Tik Tok or some other ChiComm spyware app.

  16. I know whenever I go out to start an insurrection, dump a body, or suffer a tragic boating accident, I take nothing less than my driver’s license, my FOID, my CCW permit, my passport, my SSN card, my birth certificate, and a complete set of my own dental records.

    I used to take my cellphone too, but you guys have no idea how embarassing it is to be out on the lake at 4 a.m., in the middle of tying a cinder block to your vict… I mean a body, and have Hot Chocolate’s ‘You Sexy Thing’ start blasting across the lake because your girlfriend just *has* to get ahold of you.

    1. 1. You also need to take your health insurance card.
      2. You need a better girlfriend. (while you are still allowed to use the character string “g i r l” to identify a human)

      1. 2. You need a better girlfriend.

        *Begins gathering driver’s license, FOID card, CCW permit, passport…*

  17. There’s a very strong lesson in all this.

    After 9/11, many changes were made to “protect us from the terrorists”. Patriot Acts, secret courts, meta data collection, etc. All championed by the Bush administration and enabled by a wet-rag congress who should have pushed back on the assault on individual freedoms, let alone the fucking Supreme Court. But you know how it goes, “You’re either with us or against us blah blah blah”.

    So now we’ve seen, in a mere 30 years, these tools that were put in place to supposedly protect the people are openly being used against the people. Perhaps people who align with Democrats are happy by the latest infringements on freedom, like the current suppression of “dangerous misinformation” by the media. I’m sure lots of Republicans were delighted with what FISA courts were up to until they enabled the Obama administration to spy on his political opponents.

    So I guess, like shitty students, we’ll have to keep repeating the lesson over and over. The lesson being that the power you give the government today can be used against you tomorrow. It’s not rocket science.

    1. GW Bush had it in his power to be one of the greatest presidents since Washington by simply standing up to the authoritarians and cowards and saying “No”, and perhaps sadly accepting the resignation of Rumsfeld and Chenney.

      It would not have been a permanent victory, but even a slowdown in the deathmarch would be something.

      1. Well, he would have had to have not been a stupid idiot and product of the swamp system.

        Pretty much rules it out as even a faint possibility.

        1. No so sure that’s completely true. IIRC, wasn’t he proposing a commission to start working through old regs (and laws?) to start pruning out the outdated mess that had built up? Unfortunately, that was in about August of 2001, and the momentum to get that going hadn’t built up when OBL hit the [play] button.

    2. secret courts… All championed by the Bush administration

      Not to defend the Bush Administration too adamently, but the FISA courts were created under Carter and, false evidence aside, are pretty much being used according to their original intent.

  18. As long as the phone’s power is turned off, nobody can monitor.

    For the past fifteen years, I’ve kept a cell phone in my car for emergencies.

    But since I use it only several times per year (typically to call my wife to tell her I’m running late), I keep it turned off (or else the battery runs out after several days).

    Never understood or cared for so-called smart phones, as the keys and print are too tiny for my fingers and eyes.

    Besides, I can do virtually everything on my laptop (that I could do on a smartphone), which are also monitored by Big Tech and likely Big Brother.

    1. Same situation here. I just assume that everything on this laptop is going public at some point.

      But then, I’m boring. Reason is about as subversive as I get.

    2. “…Never understood or cared for so-called smart phones, as the keys and print are too tiny for my fingers and eyes…”

      My phone’s the same; in the car, maybe if I need AAA or wife. But smart phone costs no more and I now can scare up Uber.

    3. https://www.google.com/amp/s/slate.com/technology/2013/07/nsa-can-reportedly-track-cellphones-even-when-they-re-turned-off.amp

      This was a popular perspective in 2013. I don’t know whether it was true. But people would take batteries out of the phones just in case.

  19. I love how it’s always big debate over the need to obtain a search warrant before collecting cell data, as if getting a warrant is a thing.

    I know idiotic cop procedural shows have taught you all judges spend their days dramatically enforcing the 4th amendment against overzealous cops, but in practice the vast majority of judges hardly read the warrants they sign off on. They often simply hand them out blank with their signature to the cops who them fill in whatever information they want. Getting a warrant is no never harder than simply asking for one. That the police are too laziness to spend the 2 minutes to submit a simple boilerplate probable cause request for a judge to blindly approve is a story about pure laziness rather than needing to meet some burden of proof that hardly exists.

  20. The third party doctrine is so disingenuous. When our current cell phone system was first set up, the plan was to encrypt everything between your phone and the tower, but the FBI stepped in and demanded the manufacturers not do that so they could have a transparent and life long record on his whenever they requested it.

    They then found a judge too illiterate to even know the difference between email and regular mail, or a cell phone and a landline so they could easily convince him they should all fall under the 3rd party doctrine designed for the analog world the judge understood. When you read their decision applying the 3rd party doctrine to electronic media it’s clear the judges were to technologically illiterate to understand what the FBI was asking for, or frankly even what email, or a cell phone was.

    The Feds insist manufactures make their electronic devices traceable with the plan to later apply the 3rd party doctrine to avoid the need for warrantless, which they did. Then the act like it was just some cooky confluence of events that fell into their lap when they can search us without a warrant. Since day 1 the police state has worked relentlessly to ensure whatever Constitutional protections you had in the analog world would never apply in the digital one.

    With an American public that gullible, it’s hard to feel much sympathy when the police state they allowed turns on them.

    1. The problem is that then the fools let the FBI or etc take over, the rest of us have to go along for the ride.

    2. You think it’s just the digital world? The government mandated that phone companies change landlines to be easier to wiretap, before cell phones were really a thing.

  21. When our current cell phone system was first set up, the plan was to encrypt everything between your phone and the tower, but the FBI stepped in and demanded the manufacturers not do that so they could have a transparent and life long record on his whenever they requested it.

    Might want to go have a chat with those judges, because I don’t think you know how cellphones or GPS work.

    1. While I understand how cellphone and GPS currently work, The point is that they did not need to work that way. It was by design for this purpose.

  22. There is a company called Acxiom. It was started by several people in Arkansas to provide marketing data for Democrat candidates. In fact the founders of the company are friends of Bill and Hillary.

    The company does data mining, and some of the biggest customers are federal, state, and local governments, wanting information for investigations. So, rather than send an investigator to a recorders office to figure out who owns a building, a police department can call Acxiom.

    So, investigators can find a lot of information without obtaining warrants, and it’s legal.

    But, if I can track my wife driving her car, or my son driving my car, with an app from the auto manufacturer, the government can get Ford, GM, and Toyota to turn over information.

    And, my wife used to work for a company that did cell phone billing. They got subpoenas frequently for cell phone records.

  23. Tuccille is the only writer here that I read every article from. I see his name, and I click. I haven’t been disappointed yet.

  24. This is really good news. People learn and adapt. I’ll bet that already people are adopting practices like disabling GPS or powering down their phones when it’s needful to escape the prying eyes of the state or big tech.

    1. I doubt disabling location services means they can’t find you if they want to. At what level these things operate may be a tad grey, but as someone above said, if you were to create a perfect spying device, it would pretty much look and function like a cell phone.

      Of course Brennan said it wasn’t true, so it must not be.

      1. This. Location services means third party apps can’t have access to your location, but nothing stops the OS itself from getting it. Wifi scanning and GPS fix are still active when location services are off, and the data about the MAC addresses, signal strength, and GPS location are still uploaded to Google|Apple.

        According to “the internet privacy guy” Rob Braxman, the only way out of this arrangement (and to still have a smart phone at all) is to use a de-googled (formerly) Android phone or a Linux phone. Actual Android phones and iOS devices always have this capability enabled, according to Mr. Braxman.

        Nothing will stop a cell phone from giving away its location if it is allowed to connect to a cell tower, though. It’s not a very precise location, though, maybe locating you to within a 1 sq mile area (the farther you are from the tower, the larger it gets, while if you are in a place where it switches from one tower to another, now there are two data sources and the target area gets smaller). Each cell tower has 3 directional transmitters covering 120 degrees each, so by knowing your signal strength (giving a guess of distance from the tower) and which of the 120 degree arcs covers your phone (narrowing down the direction you are in), it can estimate location. This cannot be defeated without doing something like using a faraday pouch, turning off the phone, or removing the SIM card. And 5g… forget about it. It uses beamforming, and that means your location will be known very precisely just from the connection to the cell tower itself.

        Removing the SIM card also is supposed to offer protection against Stingray, a mobile fake cellular access point that government agencies use to identify all the cell phones in the area. The Stingray sends out a beacon, essentially claiming to be a cell tower and asking all cell phones in range to announce their presence, and they will do that, along with the IMSI number on the SIM card. These responses are all stored by the Stingray device and can be immediately sent to someone for analysis (while it is still recording data), and can easily be matched to the identity of the user (though there are means to get a SIM without the ID of the person attached, they get burned pretty quick if you actually use them).

        A phone with SIM removed will remain quiet and not respond to the beacon, and will only be able to make outgoing 911 calls. If you do that, the IMEI number that is in the phone itself will give away your identity, but if you don’t make any calls, a simless phone won’t respond to beacons. Of course, you also can’t do any of the other things that give away your location, like using an app that does that kind of thing, when the internet is not connected. You can still use the phone to take pictures or videos and other things that don’t require connectivity without the SIM card.

        A CDMA phone with no SIM card in the first place is essentially going to act like a GSM phone with the SIM always installed.

  25. Does it bother anybody that fought for this country that fat, leftist, affirmative action promoted, Lloyd “Equal Opportunity” Austin III is on a witch hunt to purge the military of “white supremacists”? The man is a product of the affirmative action system, he was promoted ahead of his peers without having to perform. Is this the system that he claims is loaded with white supremacists? The very system that promoted him although he was less capable than most of the officers around him?
    I never met a white supremacist in the military. If they did exist, they damn sure never spoke about it. Racism was never “a thing” in the units that I was in. Unit cohesion cannot exist if there is discrimination at any level. It is rare, there are severe consequences, there always will be. Austin a is a lying, leftist piece of excrement.
    Why is it that Lloyd “fat body” Austin believes that there is racism all around him in the military? Simple. Austin is a card carrying racist. “It is thee, not me”! He will bomb innocent people willingly if only Biden lets him live out his fantasy of hunting “racists” in the military.
    Please Covid, take this fat bastard.

  26. When you make a call on a cordless phone or a cell phone, you have no more expectation of privacy than when you are on a call-in talk show. You are broadcasting on the open airwaves and the government had no right to ban receivers that can pick up such transmissions. Remove the battery from your flip phone when you’re not using it. Re-booting adds maybe a minute when you have to call the fire department.

  27. My response is, “So what?” I don’t do anything illegal. Monitor me all you want. I may actually be helped by this if I wreck mmy car or bicycle when I am by myself somewhere.

    Lighten up.

    1. I’d prefer not being on my knees, but to each his own.

    2. Yes. Because Government is Here to Help You.

      Goddamned moron.

    3. “Three crimes each day”…. look it up.

  28. And they’ve still only identified 300 of the rioters, a small fraction of the mob, most of whom incriminated themselves on social media and have only their own stupidity to blame. I don’t worry more about the surveillance state because there is a hard limit to human competence.

  29. File this article under No Shit, Sherlock.

  30. The government is collecting the metadata from every cell phone in the country and beyond that is turned on. Americans who own cell phones can easily be said to be addicted to them. That’s bad news for the adolescents. On the other note, tracking, the government gets point to point location of which cell towers you pass, and the order in which you pass them. If your cell phone is on, then you are giving them the route you traveled from point to point. The last bit of metadata the government has is the phone number and location of everyone you call, and everyone who calls you, plus the cell phone name of the user. Another note, this data is not only collected by the government but by devices that behave as legitimate cell towers and they can get the transmissions and their content. They can also get any passwords. Carrying your cell phone while turned on will compromise you. Using you cell phone will compromise you. Beware and be careful.

  31. Even if you leave your cell phone home, most cars have GPS in them nowadays, so when your phone can’t tattle on you, your car will. Or the DOT cameras reading your license plate will. Or the register you punch your reward number into will. Or the store camera system will. So, leave your phone at home and drive a pre-2000 vehicle with mud on the license plates and pay cash while wearing a disguise and walking with a limp.

  32. You can get VPN software on your phone and some of them can spoof GPS locations to all the apps that ask for GPS

  33. Acknowledging that your cell phone may either precisely track you or identify you by number as being in approximate locations, it should not take a Nobel Laureate to realize that if you’re going somewhere you don’t want to be tracked to, and perhaps doing something that you don’t want others to be able to (easily) find out about . . .

    Leave the damn cell phone at home. Better yet, have a co-conspirator place a call from home on your phone to another trusted co-conspirator to at least suggest to the watchers that you were home all the time :-Q. (And drive there in an older, points and plugs, model vehicle with no connectivity, though nowadays with license plate readers scattered about, you may have to walk to not be tracked, and uh – by the way – what’s that whirring noise overhead?)

  34. There is a company that sells a faraday cage case for your phone.

  35. I’ve lost well over $500,000 since 9/11 in large part due to illegal cell-phone tracking.

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