Apple, Facebook, Google & others sign brief concerned about warrantless location tracking

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in iPhone
Several high-profile technology companies, including Apple, have submitted a amicus brief in a key case at the U.S. Supreme Court, expressing concerns about warrantless police access to cellphone location data.




Other tech firms listed in the brief include Airbnb, Cisco, Dropbox, Evernote, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Mozilla, Snap, Twitter, and Verizon. Collectively, the companies argue that the court should "refine the application of certain Fourth Amendment doctrines to ensure that the law realistically engages with Internet-based technologies and with people's expectations of privacy in their digital data."

The case in question is Timothy Carpenter v. United States. Police obtained Carpenter's location history without a warrant, leading to his eventual robbery conviction. At court he's being represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, which says that the government violated Fourth Amendment rights against search and seizure.

Apple has adopted a broad pro-privacy stance, most famously refusing to write a backdoor into the iPhone of San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook, despite legal action by the U.S. Deparment of Justice. Efforts against Apple were dropped when the DoJ announced it had found another way of accessing Farook's phone.

Ensuring that location data can't easily be accessed or demanded may both alleviate the burden on companies like Apple and increase the perception of iPhones as secure devices.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 3
    As someone who is very familiar with emergency communication centers (911) I can tell you that warrantless location tracking happens hundreds of times every day in larger cities. I would say 10,000+ times a day across the United States. Everytime someone calls 911 and says "help me" and then hangs up a tracking process is initiated to help law enforcement track down and find the person that had called for help. To require someone to go get a warrant from a magistrate or judge every time this happens is simply unreasonable. Now I could see if you want to do a long term, on-going investigation where your tracking someone for weeks or months reference a criminal investigation then yeah get a warrant.
  • Reply 2 of 3
    icoco3icoco3 Posts: 1,456member
    As someone who is very familiar with emergency communication centers (911) I can tell you that warrantless location tracking happens hundreds of times every day in larger cities. I would say 10,000+ times a day across the United States. Everytime someone calls 911 and says "help me" and then hangs up a tracking process is initiated to help law enforcement track down and find the person that had called for help. To require someone to go get a warrant from a magistrate or judge every time this happens is simply unreasonable. Now I could see if you want to do a long term, on-going investigation where your tracking someone for weeks or months reference a criminal investigation then yeah get a warrant.
    With the 911 call, you have invited that in.  If more data is collected and analyzed beyond what is needed to locate the caller at that specific time, then a violation could be said to have occurred. 
    edited August 2017 potatoleeksouplolliver
  • Reply 3 of 3
    foggyhillfoggyhill Posts: 4,767member
    icoco3 said:
    As someone who is very familiar with emergency communication centers (911) I can tell you that warrantless location tracking happens hundreds of times every day in larger cities. I would say 10,000+ times a day across the United States. Everytime someone calls 911 and says "help me" and then hangs up a tracking process is initiated to help law enforcement track down and find the person that had called for help. To require someone to go get a warrant from a magistrate or judge every time this happens is simply unreasonable. Now I could see if you want to do a long term, on-going investigation where your tracking someone for weeks or months reference a criminal investigation then yeah get a warrant.
    With the 911 call, you have invited that in.  If more data is collected and analyzed beyond what is needed to locate the caller at that specific time, then a violation could be said to have occurred. 
    Yeah, the 911 call is a authorisation to track and transfer all you got in the moment, asking beyond that is overreach.

    Apple makes sure to anonymize itself when contacting public WIFI and bluetooth networks but it can't do much when it comes to sharing info with the Comm towers unless you don't want your call to come in, the tower has to know where you are. Even there, the last hop routing could be made to not know more than in needs to forward calls or data back to the net hop making tracking end to end a real effort (as it should be).

    You can do that by routing data calls through a vpn tunnels that mixes traffic and can then emerge anywhere. A bit like walking in a river to cover you tracks :-).
    watto_cobra
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