Sunday, July 15, 2012


Peter Maass and Megha Rajagopalan at Pro Publica provide us with details of how your cell phone can easily be the subject of warrantless location tracking: many of the 1.3 million law enforcement requests for called numbers and location information last year alone were warrantless. To me, that bears the stench of being forced to testify against oneself.

Maass and Rajagopalan conclude by suggesting we drop the term "cellphones" as no longer adequately describing their multiplicity of functions. Call them "trackers," they say. Excuse me, my tracker's ringing...


  1. One reason to buy a phone with a removable battery is that turning a phone "off" doesn't truly turn it off. Just a bit of advice there.

    When the Feds mandated the 911 chips in all phones, I realized that this was the inevitable outcome. I always assume that if my phone is outside of a sealed Farraday envelope, I am being tracked. Luckily they'll be mighty bored if they're tracking me... though they may wonder when I fall off the edge of the world in the mountains or desert and am no longer within the reach of the cell phone network and their spy chips. They'll just have to continue wondering :).

    - Badtux the Technology Penguin

  2. Good advice, BadTux; thanks.

    Since I am at home 99.9 percent of the time, and at the pharmacy or grocer or my PO box much of the remaining 0.1 percent, I'm not too worried about it personally, but people should have the option to be off the grid if they want. I've thought of one of those envelopes, but Stella doesn't like not being able to reach me, and we do use both voice and text for ordinary household matters. The notion that the FBI and the No Such Agency even care about my phone use is offensive to me; they should be pursuing crooks (and catching the occasional actual terrorist... like that's ever going to happen). And the phone company... I've decided that ATT stands for "All The Time," which is when your land line is monitored.

  3. The only good news is that 99% of the time, no human ever sees any of this tracking data. It's all being put into a giant computer that looks for "suspicious" movements like going to a feed store, going to a place that rents U-Haul trucks, going to a truck stop that sells diesel fuel, then parking the truck out in front of a Federal courthouse all within the course of a day. Well, that's the theory anyhow, I can tell you having looked at the civilian version of similar technology that the reality is somewhat less precise. Lots, *lots* of false positives where human beings end up looking at the movements of innocent Americans.



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