Privacy concerns resonate with the American people. Although the right to privacy is not explicitly protected in the United States Constitution, the Supreme Court has found the right to privacy rooted within the Constitution based on various amendments. In the modern era, with rapid advances in technology, threats to privacy abound including new surveillance methods by law enforcement. There is a growing tension between an individual's right to privacy and our collective right to public safety. This latter right is often protected by law enforcement's use of electronic surveillance as an investigative tool, but may be done at times inconsistent with constitutional rights.
Recently, the American Civil Liberties Union brought to light the popular use of government surveillance of cell phones, including the gathering of all cell phone numbers utilizing a specific cell site location. Known as a "cell tower dump," such procedures essentially obtain all of the telephone number records from a particular cell site tower for a given time period: "A tower dump allows police to request the phone numbers of all phones that connected to a specific tower within a given period of time." State and federal courts have barely addressed cell tower dumps. However, the actions by most of the largest cell phone providers, as well as personal experience and conversations with other magistrate judges, strongly suggest "that it has become a relatively routine investigative technique" for law enforcement officials.
No federal statute directly addresses whether and how law enforcement officers may seek a cell tower dump from cellular telephone providers. Assistant United States Attorneys, with the encouragement of the United States Department of Justice, apply for court orders authorizing cell tower dumps pursuant to a provision in the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986. The pertinent provision poses a procedural hurdle less stringent than a warrant based on probable cause, which in turn raises significant constitutional concerns.
This article provides a brief description of cellular telephone and cell-site technology in Part I. Next, Part II addresses the evolution of Fourth Amendment jurisprudence and argues that the reasonable expectation of privacy standard applies to electronic surveillance such as cell tower dumps. In Part III, the discussion follows the development of statutes addressing electronic surveillance and argues that cell tower dumps request more information than simply just telephone numbers. Part IV analyzes records from both cellular service providers and the federal government to conclude that cell tower dumps routinely occur. Part V assesses the few decisions that even discuss cell tower dumps and argues that the analysis is either non-existent or flawed regarding the use of the Stored Communications Act to permit cell tower dumps. Next, Part VI asserts that cell tower dumps cannot be analyzed pursuant to the Stored Communications Act because the language of the statute is inapplicable and the amount of information sought requires a warrant based on probable cause and concludes by proposing some protocols to safeguard individual privacy rights.
A great article for anyone who knows/uses UNIX based systems.
1. Do not perform Google Searches while signed into your account.
This is the simplest way to ensure Google does not capture search history associated with your user ID/profile. As an alternative, keep your Google account signed in on one browser (e.g. Firefox) and use another browser operating under privacy protection mode (e.g. Chrome's Incognito Mode) to conduct searches. This is not fool proof -- google can certainly be smart enough to identify signed in sessions and non-signed in sessions originating from the same IP address...but it's a start.
Please note all steps below assume you are signed into your Google account
2. Remove your Google History
- Navigate to http://www.google.com/history
If web history is enabled:
- Click the button says "View History"
- Click "Remove All Web History"
Doing this automatically stops the future collection of web history. If you ever wish to resume history collection, simply click the "Resume" button.
3. Remove your YouTube History
- Click on "YouTube" in the toolbar at the top of the page
- On the right of the page, click your username and select "Video Manager"
- On the left side of the page, click the "History" button
- Click the "Clear Viewing History" button, confirm your choice when the pop-up displays
- Refresh the page/click the "History" button again
- Finally, click "Pause Viewing History"
- In Gmail, click on the cog/wheel in the upper right corner
- Click Mail Settings
- Click Chat
- Ensure "Never save chat" history is enabled
5. Remove old e-mail from GoogleNavigate to https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?tab=wm#all/p99999 and look at the date on the e-mails, these are the oldest e-mails stored in your Google Account.Take a walk through memory lane...Scary, huh?
To remove these e-mails from Google Servers:
- Click the cog/wheel in the upper right corner of Gmail
- Select "Mail Settings"
- Select "Forwarding and POP/IMAP"
- Click "Enable IMAP"
- Download a mail client such as Thunderbird, Outlook, Apple Mail, etc
- Follow directions to setup mail client: http://support.google.com/mail/bin/answer.py?hl=en&ctx=mail&answer=75726
- Using the mail client, create a local email storage file= such as an outlook PST or a Thunderbird local folder
- Download all e-mails from Google to your local storage
- Delete all e-mails from Google
- Repeat this every month, ensuring only the last six months of e-mail stay on Google's Servers
6. Android Phone - Web Browser
- Open your Web Browser
- Click the Menu Key on your phone
- Select "More"
- Select "Settings"
- Clear your history, cache, and location access.
- Suggest disabling "Enabled location" to prevent future websites from accessing your location.
Security Best Practices for your Google Account
While not related to the impending privacy changes, the follow steps are two important functions to enable on your Google account.
7. Google Mail Connection
- In the Gmail settings, click on the "General" settings tab
- Ensure "Browser Connection" has "Always use https" enabled
8. 2-Step verification
2-Step verification is similar to what major banking websites are now using. This service provides stronger security protection on your account. The process is very simple: Once activated, you will need to verify the device(s) you frequently sign into your google account from. Your home computer, your work computer, your iPad, etc. To do this, Google will send you an SMS text message with a unique code. You will be required to enter both your password and this code to verify the device you are signing into Google with. This will prevent people from accessing your account from unauthorized devices/computers.
- Navigate to https://www.google.com/settings/
- Under "Security" find the 2-step verification item
- Click "Edit" -- walk through the sign up process.
Ars has a great write up by Timothy Lee: http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2012/01/under-voter-pressure-members-of-congress-backpedal-on-sopa.ars
MSNBC's "Up with Chris Hayes" hosted a debate about SOPA with NBCUniversal Executive Vice President and General Counsel Richard Cotton and Reddit.com co-founder Alexis Ohanian, as well as former Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) and former lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Rick Cotton and Alexis Ohanian dominated most of debate.
I found Richard Cotton's tactic in this debate to be hysterical and typical of the debate thus far: state your position loudly, frequently, and do not yield any ground to other arguments. Cotton spent the entire debate vehemently insisting that SOPA will not effect any U.S. websites/companies and frequently trying to talk over Alexis and Chris. He said some variation of "wholesale devoted to theft/illegal activity/thievery" 10 times, "devoted to foreign sites only" 6 times, and told someone their interpretation of the bill was flat out wrong twice within the roughly 18-minute long debate. Alexis and Chris made some good points.
Interesting debate -- especially seeing an NBC show host challenge and spar with an NBC VP over the stance the company has taken. Kudos to NBC for their openness...now just stop supporting this bill.