ICE iPhone seizure shows extent of government's data retrieval abilities

Posted:
in iPhone edited January 2014
Smartphones such as Apple's iPhone have turned into indispensable aspects in their users' lives, but a recently discovered court document demonstrates how authorities can use the seemingly innocuous devices as remarkably detailed tracking tools.

iOS Enterprise


The American Civil Liberties Union recently uncovered a court document connected to a drug investigation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The document (available here) contains a detailed list of the information federal agents were able to extract from one suspect's iPhone during a single data extraction session.

The list includes call logs, iMessage and chat data, contact information, installed applications, stored voicemails, passwords, and IP connection data. It also has information on 659 geolocation points, including the cell phone towers and Wi-Fi connections the iPhone had connected to.

At issue is the legal standard for conducting this sort of deep examination of mobile handsets. Given the massive amount of personal information users now keep on smartphones and similar devices, the ACLU argues that law enforcement should have to obtain a warrant in order to perform this type of search. In the example provided, federal agents first obtained the iPhone in the course of a warranted search, then secured another warrant before scanning the phone.

phone search
List of data points recorded from the extraction session.


"The type of data stored on a smartphone," the ACLU argues, "can paint a near-complete picture of even the most private details of someone's personal life."

The report says that standards governing cell phone searches are not solid, and that courts disagree on whether law enforcement should have to obtain a warrant. Reportedly, there have been many instances ? in searches incident to arrest as well as cases originating at the U.S. border ? where police have argued they do not need to obtain a warrant.

In order to avoid such warrantless searches, the ACLU recommends setting a long password ? not a four-digit PIN code ? to lock a device. The organization also recommends against relying on the pattern-based lock system common to Android devices, as Google can bypass such security measures if it is forced to do so by the government.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 33
    hill60hill60 Posts: 6,992member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post



    "The type of data stored on a smartphone," the ACLU argues, "can paint a near-complete picture of even the most private details of someone's personal life."



     


     


    Regarding the location tracking, logs are not proof that the phone was in possession of the accused, someone else could have had possesion of the phone at various times.

  • Reply 2 of 33
    nagrommenagromme Posts: 2,834member
    They got two warrants--that sounds like how it should work. (Warrentless examination is clearly in violation of the Constitution.)

    (And if your phone is kept password-locked, are there still holes that allow unencrypting the info? I seem to recall it used to be possible.)


    Quote:
    [I]Originally Posted by hill60

    Regarding the location tracking, logs are not proof that the phone was in possession of the accused, someone else could have had possesion of the phone at various times.[/I]


    They don't have to prove it though: once they know (pretty nearly certain) where you were, then that leads to other evidence and proof. For instance, what if a politician wanted to hassle people who campaign against his sponsors' pet bill. The phone could tell the police that it--and therefore probably YOU--were at a protest that lacked a permit. Once they "know" that, they can seek photos, witnesses, whatever to make it solid proof.
  • Reply 3 of 33
    ktappektappe Posts: 808member
    If you are going to do something illegal, turn your mobile phone all the way off. And then don't even take it with you.

    Seriously, this isn't rocket science....
  • Reply 4 of 33
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    ktappe wrote: »
    If you are going to do something illegal, turn your mobile phone all the way off. And then don't even take it with you.

    Seriously, this isn't rocket science....

    But if you are trying to be known as the one who is doing something illegal it might be best to not turn it off and perhaps have the phone go on a trip (perhaps secretly in someone's bag) while you do your deed.

    I seem to recall there was a Bourne move where they figured out which guy to hone in on because they were had turned off their phone during a certain time frame. Did I see that or am I making this up?
  • Reply 5 of 33


    Originally Posted by ktappe View Post

    If you are going to do something illegal, turn your mobile phone all the way off. And then don't even take it with you.



    Seriously, this isn't rocket science....


     


    Does it matter? According to Schmidt, they "pretty much know what you're thinking" anyway. 


     


    Now all we need is for Clippy-esque helping software to become relevant again. "It looks like you're trying to cause mass mayhem. Would you like some help with that?"

  • Reply 6 of 33
    eriamjheriamjh Posts: 1,303member


    This is why career criminals use disposable phones.  They're not stupid enough to use a smartphone for all their crimes.

  • Reply 7 of 33
    dasanman69dasanman69 Posts: 13,001member
    solipsismx wrote: »
    But if you are trying to be known as the one who is doing something illegal it might be best to not turn it off and perhaps have the phone go on a trip (perhaps secretly in someone's bag) while you do your deed.

    I seem to recall there was a Bourne move where they figured out which guy to hone in on because they were had turned off their phone during a certain time frame. Did I see that or am I making this up?

    I watch a lot of movies and can't recall anything like that. Many phones don't power down completely unless the battery is removed (which of course can't be done with a iPhone) and can still be geolocated.
  • Reply 8 of 33
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    dasanman69 wrote: »
    I watch a lot of movies and can't recall anything like that. Many phones don't power down completely unless the battery is removed (which of course can't be done with a iPhone) and can still be geolocated.

    Even with a feshly dead battery there is a trickle that can still be pinged from a cell tower, according to Abby in the most recent episode of NCIS.
  • Reply 9 of 33
    dasanman69dasanman69 Posts: 13,001member
    solipsismx wrote: »
    Even with a feshly dead battery there is a trickle that can still be pinged from a cell tower, according to Abby in the most recent episode of NCIS.

    There's still quite a bit of charge left even if the phone turned itself off. We'd lose all our data if the battery went completely dead. I don't think there's a little digital watch type battery like motherboards have to retain basic data when there's no power, but on second thought there just might be on phones with removable batteries. Oh and Abby is HOT
  • Reply 10 of 33

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by ktappe View Post



    If you are going to do something illegal, turn your mobile phone all the way off. And then don't even take it with you.



    Seriously, this isn't rocket science....


     


    use a prepaid, using cash sim which makes it harder to track via the Federally required tracking via the cell company. turn on passcode lock with an alphanumeric password and the whole 'erase after 10 attempts' on. plus icloud to remote wipe it after they snatch but before they get to a computer to try anything. sure it might not be perfect but it could make things harder. 

  • Reply 11 of 33

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by dasanman69 View Post





    I watch a lot of movies and can't recall anything like that. Many phones don't power down completely unless the battery is removed (which of course can't be done with a iPhone) and can still be geolocated.


     


    not true. if you know what to do you can remove an iphone battery or at least disconnect it. really easy on a 4 series. get a pentalobe for like 5 bucks from Fixit.com for the back plate. triple zero driver for the battery connector plate. only thing you have to be careful about is static. but then again, if you do screw it up and it's under warranty get it replaced. just dont tell them you opened it yourself

  • Reply 12 of 33
    charlituna wrote: »
    not true. if you know what to do you can remove an iphone battery or at least disconnect it. really easy on a 4 series. get a pentalobe for like 5 bucks from Fixit.com for the back plate. triple zero driver for the battery connector plate. only thing you have to be careful about is static. but then again, if you do screw it up and it's under warranty get it replaced. just dont tell them you opened it yourself

    I should have said easily done, I stand corrected. Thanks for pointing that out.
  • Reply 13 of 33
    dasanman69 wrote: »
    There's still quite a bit of charge left even if the phone turned itself off. We'd lose all our data if the battery went completely dead. I don't think there's a little digital watch type battery like motherboards have to retain basic data when there's no power, but on second thought there just might be on phones with removable batteries. Oh and Abby is HOT

    You're killing me today! You do not lose all your data by removing the battery. It' saved to NAND and the OS is very good about backing up constantly and writing all necessary changed to "disk" before the battery shuts down.


    PS: This is a personal preference but I don't see what others see in Abby's looks. I love the character but don't find her attractive. Kate Beckinsale, now that's another story. I watched that horribly written Total Recall film because she was in it.
  • Reply 14 of 33
    dasanman69 wrote: »
    I watch a lot of movies and can't recall anything like that. Many phones don't power down completely unless the battery is removed (which of course can't be done with a iPhone) and can still be geolocated.

    Did you see the latest Bourne movie with Jeremy Renner? That might be it. I'll try to look it up tomorrow simply because I have to know even if that means spending days combing through spy movies (you might have noticed I don't let things go :D).
  • Reply 15 of 33

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by ktappe View Post



    If you are going to do something illegal, turn your mobile phone all the way off. And then don't even take it with you.



    Seriously, this isn't rocket science....


     


    You would think right?

  • Reply 16 of 33

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post





    Even with a feshly dead battery there is a trickle that can still be pinged from a cell tower, according to Abby in the most recent episode of NCIS.


     


    You would think the Department of Defense and Homeland Security would have those guys at NCIS arrested as many times as they "hack" into their databases. 

  • Reply 17 of 33

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post





    You're killing me today! You do not lose all your data by removing the battery. It' saved to NAND and the OS is very good about backing up constantly and writing all necessary changed to "disk" before the battery shuts down.





    PS: This is a personal preference but I don't see what others see in Abby's looks. I love the character but don't find her attractive. Kate Beckinsale, now that's another story. I watched that horribly written Total Recall film because she was in it.


     


    She is one woman that has aged very well.  I became a fan since I saw the first Underworld movie.  She does latex proud.

  • Reply 18 of 33
    I think this is an interesting article that puts in light how unwise criminals are to use iPhones or other smart phones. It's about a SIM & phone swapping system for criminals.

    http://gawker.com/5878862

    'Smart devices' constantly spy on their users, trusting remote data wipe to 'somewhere in the Cloud' is madness when your life may depend on the info not leaking to police (or rivals). A simple grounded tin can act as a sufficient faraday cage that prevents any signals getting into it, blocking the wipe in seconds of an arrest.

    The iTunes backup is also another potential failure point, why use a device that logs everything in handy xml & SQLITE files?
  • Reply 19 of 33
    cicocico Posts: 14member
    Sooooo drug lords don't really use to watch The Wire, do they?
  • Reply 20 of 33
    dasanman69dasanman69 Posts: 13,001member
    solipsismx wrote: »
    You're killing me today! You do not lose all your data by removing the battery. It' saved to NAND and the OS is very good about backing up constantly and writing all necessary changed to "disk" before the battery shuts down.


    PS: This is a personal preference but I don't see what others see in Abby's looks. I love the character but don't find her attractive. Kate Beckinsale, now that's another story. I watched that horribly written Total Recall film because she was in it.

    I'm a sucker for a girl that has bangs and especially if she's a brunette.
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