Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Government Privacy Your Rights Online

Battle Brews Over FBI's Warrantless GPS Tracking 259

Posted by samzenpus
from the who-watches-the-watchers dept.
fysdt writes "The FBI's use of GPS vehicle tracking devices is becoming a contentious privacy issue in the courts, with the Obama administration seeking Supreme Court approval for its use of the devices without a warrant, and a federal civil rights lawsuit targeting the Justice Department for tracking the movements of an Arab-American student. In the midst of this legal controversy, Threat Level decided to take a look at the inside of one of the devices, with the help of the teardown artists at iFixit."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Battle Brews Over FBI's Warrantless GPS Tracking

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 09, 2011 @10:34AM (#36071762)

    Damn Republicans passing laws and continuing abuses like this stripping away our rights. . .

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 09, 2011 @11:20AM (#36072228)

      Damn Republicans passing laws and continuing abuses like this stripping away our rights. . .

      Yeh, no crap. The difference is, if it WAS a Republican, the media and the left wing would be up in arms...

      Now, all we hear are the echos of silences.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 09, 2011 @10:38AM (#36071806)

    Violation of privacy is something committed by a party of equal power to yourself. When government commits injustice, the correct term is oppression. We aren't talking about a nosey neighbor peeking out the window at you, or even a dedicated stalker. We are talking about the organization holding the special right to employ coercion against you as their means -- the most dangerous force that could possibly exist. Needless to say, the situation is completely, utterly different.

    • by AmiMoJo (196126) <mojo@@@world3...net> on Monday May 09, 2011 @11:27AM (#36072304) Homepage

      Be glad you can even do something about it. In the UK all vehicles are tracked all the time by automatic numberplate recognition using images from traffic cameras. They don't have them quite everywhere yet but they are working on that.

      It seems that it is easier to get away with oppression if you do it to everyone all the time. The FBI's mistake was to target individuals.

      • by inviolet (797804)

        Be glad you can even do something about it. In the UK all vehicles are tracked all the time by automatic numberplate recognition using images from traffic cameras. They don't have them quite everywhere yet but they are working on that.

        Most people don't know this, but Houston's red-light cameras also do that. EMS and Police have live access to the database, and can issue queries along the lines of "Which intersection last observed license plate XXX-YYY?" whenever they wish.

    • the most dangerous force that could possibly exist.

      You don't know the power of the dark side. ;)

  • So... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Monday May 09, 2011 @10:46AM (#36071898)
    Now that Osama bin Laden is dead, we are left...defending our rights from exactly the same threat we faced before. Glad that killing the guy accomplished so much.
  • Since these days most people carry a GPS unit voluntarily anyway. If you want to watch someone's day-to-day movements, it'd probably be easier to track his cell phone movements than to duct tape a rather obvious unit to the underside of his car.
    • by torgis (840592)
      That would involve data from his mobile carrier, which would involve the hassle of going to court and getting a warrant. You know, that whole pesky "due process of law" thing that they used to use for suspected criminals. Much easier to just slap this on someone's car, gather data, and *then* get a warrant. Or use the information for more sinister means. Or whatever you want, really. That's the beauty of warrantless police activities. It's limitless and they're accountable to nobody.
      • by Dunbal (464142) * on Monday May 09, 2011 @11:07AM (#36072100)

        It's limitless and they're accountable to nobody.

        No, they are always accountable to the people. Except it takes something like Egypt or Libya to get rid of them once they gain so much power. But eventually the people always wake up and shake off the yoke when it bothers them too much. It's a repeated lesson throughout human history

        • I'm not sure the Syrians would agree with you at the moment. Libyans neither for that matter. The people can *try* to make the gov't accountable but it's not always possible.

      • by khr (708262) <kevinrubin@gmail.com> on Monday May 09, 2011 @11:20AM (#36072242) Homepage

        pesky "due process of law" thing

        I was in Pune, India about ten years ago when one police precinct in the city got assigned a new chief inspector. It was the Deccan area, where there's a huge number of colleges and universities.

        The newspaper had an interview with the new chief inspector (it was a big deal because she was the first woman in the position) and one of the questions they asked her was what factors complicated policing that precinct. Her answer was "there's a lot of educated people who know their rights."

  • by Roskolnikov (68772) on Monday May 09, 2011 @10:56AM (#36071998)

    So would it be ok to place a GPS tracker on every police car you find, I bet not and while betting I bet that if you were caught trying to put such a thing on a police car you would get shot.

    My advise on this is quite simple, if you find a little black box, an antenna and a battery pack on the underside of your car, call the local police and tell them you found exactly what you found under your car, a bundle with wires coming out of it (the battery pack) a black box attached to it (the GPS receiver) and an antenna and your afraid to touch it. Make certain your insurance is paid up.

    Call the local news as well, its a bomb threat for certain but this is an economics game, they can't afford to follow everyone with agents so its cheaper to track everyone of interest and sort it out later, make this cost them as much as possible, PR spin isn't cheap, nor is replacing GPS devices that keep 'falling' off the car (rip the wires, leave parts of it on the car) at some point it becomes cheaper to either follow you with Agents, or stop following you.

    • PR spin isn't cheap, nor is replacing GPS devices that keep 'falling' off the car (rip the wires, leave parts of it on the car) at some point it becomes cheaper to either follow you with Agents, or stop following you.

      Based on what I read in Wired's breakdown, the devices themselves are pretty cheap. Mostly decade old COTS parts with a little custom assembly. The expense would come, as you say, with the cost of sending Agents out to stick another one to your vehicle.

      But certainly if I found one of these under my car my first call would be to the police, describing exactly what it is I'm looking at. It might be a GPS tracker, it might be a bomb. I don't know what it is other than it is black, has antennas, and I hav

    • by misexistentialist (1537887) on Monday May 09, 2011 @12:24PM (#36072940)
      Local police will be using them too, so they will probably only show up to arrest you for tampering with evidence. The news as usual won't report a thing.
  • by Iphtashu Fitz (263795) on Monday May 09, 2011 @10:56AM (#36072002)

    If I found one of these attached to my car I think I'd simply throw it in a box and mail it somewhere. Perhaps to an FBI office on the other side of the country. Let the FBI blindly trace the path it takes through the USPS, UPS, FedEx, etc.

    Either that or I'd let a dog run around the neighborhood with it.

    • If I found one of these attached to my car I think I'd simply throw it in a box and mail it somewhere. Perhaps to an FBI office on the other side of the country. Let the FBI blindly trace the path it takes through the USPS, UPS, FedEx, etc.

      Either that or I'd let a dog run around the neighborhood with it.

      If I found one of these on my car - I would put it on hackaday for a bit of reverse engineering fun.

      • Valuable info (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        How long until the FBI starts selling this info? Hell, it works for Google.

      • by Amouth (879122)

        thats what i was thinking (kinda of) we know it transmits.. but question is how well did the FBI do it? is it blind?? can you spoof it.. can you start broadcasting and send false data - maybe start listening and see other cars being tracked? spoof that?

        Another fun one is calling the FCC on the Agents.. i really doubt they have a licence for it.. yea sure they won't get find or anything like that but it's just another hassle.. if your bored - i can't thing of anything better than making the FBI waste i

        • by Muad'Dave (255648)

          Government agencies are not beholden to the FCC - that's for us peons. They have the NTIA [doc.gov], which does essentially the same thing as the FCC, but for the federales. In the rest of the world, 433MHz is an ISM band. Here in the US we see importers trying to get the FCC to allow those ISM devices into the US - no thanks! They will crush the Amateur 70cm band.

          That frequency is smack-dab in the middle of an Amateur Radio band (secondary allocation), and is also used by the feds for 'radiolocation'. See page 491 o

    • by inviolet (797804)

      If I found one of these attached to my car I think I'd simply throw it in a box and mail it somewhere. Perhaps to an FBI office on the other side of the country. Let the FBI blindly trace the path it takes through the USPS, UPS, FedEx, etc.

      Either that or I'd let a dog run around the neighborhood with it.

      Keep in mind, the current generation of GPS tracking devices look NOTHING like the model they dissected for FTA. The FBI said so when the device was first found on that poor student's car -- a statement along the lines of "If it was one of our modern units, he never would've found it". The guy who said that probably got a reprimand afterwars, too.

  • Well (Score:4, Funny)

    by Jiro (131519) on Monday May 09, 2011 @11:06AM (#36072094)

    They said that if I voted Republican, we'd get warrantless wiretapping. I voted Republican, and what do you know, we did!

    It's hardly even a joke any more. Obama's just as bad as his opponents, except we also get Obamacare added on top.

    • by Jiro (131519)

      I meant tracking, of course. Though we did get warrantless wiretapping as well.

    • by iinlane (948356)

      May I remind you that you're at war. You should be happy that your house is not under bombardment.

    • Re:Well (Score:5, Informative)

      by rotide (1015173) on Monday May 09, 2011 @11:46AM (#36072542)

      The second you try to make this a partisan issue is the second you've proven you're drank the kool-aid. Both sides pander to those who give them money, which is everyone with profits on the line who also has enough money to "buy" someone.

      Democrat or Republican, same shit, different piles.

      Well... there are slight differences, but the end result still tastes crappy.

      • by LWATCDR (28044)

        "The second you try to make this a partisan issue is the second you've proven you're drank the kool-aid. "
        I agree but did you say the same thing when the other party was in power? Silence is consent.

        That being said "To track or to wire-tape should require a warrant". I do not feel that is extreme at all. I will even go slight more permissive and say that international communications could be legally tapped without a warrant. After all there is no requirement of a warrant to search anything at a boarder cros

    • Obama didn't distinguish himself in healthcare either, since it is more of the same of Dubyacare, aka Medicare Part D.
  • by Vinegar Joe (998110) on Monday May 09, 2011 @11:13AM (#36072166)

    Oh, wait a sec...........

    Never mind.

  • ...had the same effect as shooting the little boy who had his thumb in the hole in the dam in the head. Stinks...we didn't even get a Beer Hall Putsch as warning. Unless that was Palin?
  • Or disable them, other than jamming GPS or cell phone?

  • These will become more common in many countries...

    The way to exploit being followed is to provide the enemy with the data you wish them to have. Take digital pics of its position on the vehicle so you can replace it, then use it as an alibi!

    It can be moving when you are in-place, or in-place when you are moving. It can be moving elsewhere, states away if you like.

    You can state you were at X location and KNOW that matches their data without revealing that you know this.

    One doesn't "hide" by turning off parts

    • by scubamage (727538)
      Interesting idea. If you contact your local law enforcement agency and inform them that you found a device that looks like a bomb - about 10 minutes after you contact ALL of your local news agencies so the arriving officers can have a nice little wall of reporters to go through. Ensure that the reporters are on your property, so the officer can't tell them to leave. Its your property. This way, when they have to make the embarrassing admission that its a GPS tracker, its a matter of public record. Now, yo
  • standard household 120v AC, hooked to each antenna for a few seconds should modify the unit to the desired operating status.

    The neighbor's van solution *is* funnier, however, although placing it in the middle of a raw sewage processing facility, a rural outhouse or a porn theatre has some appeal.

"Your mother was a hamster, and your father smelt of elderberrys!" -- Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Working...