Sunday, January 13, 2013

Roundup: Big Brother online, little brother on your cell phone

A number of recent items related to electronic privacy, or the lack thereof, merit Grits readers' attention:

What cops get from Facebook
Wanna know what information Facebook will give up about you if any law enforcement agency sends them a subpoena? See here.

Big Brother is a Democrat, for today
The Obama Administration last year succeeded in authorizing a version of "Total Information Awareness" where the Bush Administration failed, the Wall Street Journal reported last month. Apparently the key was to do it behind closed doors and not to tell the press until months after the deed was done.

Your cell phone may be spying on you
The government isn't the only one who can invade your privacy. This company and others are marketing software which can be covertly downloaded onto a smart phone "through an untraceable installation process that takes less than 2 minutes" that lets you "listen in on live conversations in real-time and without the risk of being detected or traced!" Even more concerning, it contains a feature that "allows you to activate the target smartphone device’s integrated microphone through an SMS command, enabling you to record the conversation taking place in the surrounding environment." In other words, it can listen to your face-to-face conversations if the phone is in the same room with you. Marketed to helicopter parents and spouses suspecting cheaters, but also to employers, the technology is both creepy and cheap. The New York Times has a report on new legislation (pdf) moving in the Senate which would place limits on such applications and give consumers more control over their location data.

Congress sucks: Stored communications edition
A quarter-century old law allows the government to access your email if it's stored on a third-party server for longer than 180 days, and during the week between Christmas and the New Year, Congress gutted provisions in its reauthorization that would have updated the law to protect privacy during the era of cloud computing. If you use Gmail or other services to store your old emails, the government can access them, content and all, with only a subpoena, as the nation learned during the David Petraeus debacle. FWIW, Article 18.21, Section 4 of Texas' Code of Criminal Procedure requires state and local law enforcement in Texas to notify a suspect when they access  "stored communications" older than 180 days with an administrative subpoena, but contains a drive-a-truck-through it loophole, "as otherwise permitted by applicable federal law," that on its face seems to moot those protections.

1 comment:

Thomas R. Griffith said...

Hey Grits, thanks for the creepy info. Just say no to spy-phones & How do you & your phone plead? T-shirts! Get 'em while their legal.

Now that you've shown us this, I can add the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure to the ever growing Fake-Ass List of 2012 & beyond. If others know of any other Texas Fakism worthy of inclusion please share.