Sunday, March 18, 2012

Congress says, "protect customers", Justice Department says "spy on them."

Originally posted 05/11/2011 on

Today Apple and Google execs appeared before congress to answer questions about the way their operating systems gather user data. Darrell Etherington of the Gigaom column at Businessweek reports that Senator Al Franken assured everyone that the purpose of the hearing was not to bring an end to location services, but to move forward while protecting customers.

While Senator Franken was working to protect consumers from overreaching data collection by cell phone makers, the Justice Department was arguing for laws requiring cell phone providers to collect more data on their customers. Declan Mcullagh reported in his Privacy Inc. blog that Jason Weinstein, the deputy assistant attorney general for the criminal division testified on the need for cell phones to collect and retain data to make it easier for law enforcement to gather evidence:

"Many wireless providers do not retain records that would enable law enforcement to identify a suspect's smartphone based on the IP addresses collected by Web sites that the suspect visited," he added.

Really? They won't be able to identify a persons smart phone if they can't use the IP address assigned to it? I know some criminals will avoid putting any identifying information on the phone if they can, but really. The only way to identify a smart phone belongs to someone is by knowing it's IP and the web sites it visited. It makes you wonder how they were ever abe to solve crimes back in the dark ages when there were no smart phones with IP addresses and web sites to record them.

This is a typical overreach. The idea that government can require gathering data on everyone because there are a few instances the data may help in a criminal case goes against the spirit of the 4th Amendment and the idea of innocent until proven guilty. Why is a cell phone any different than the information in my home? They can't go into everyone's home and gather data to make it easier to solve criminal cases. Why should they be allowed to go into my phone? And why should they be able to gather data, or have someone else gather data from my phone without any evidence I've committed a crime? They shouldn't. That's what the Bill of Rights was written to protect us from.