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Australian Police Use Telcos For Cell "Tower Dump" of All Connected Users' Data 60

Posted by timothy
from the banning-opaque-envelopes-too dept.
AHuxley (892839) writes The Sydney Morning Herald is reporting that Australian federal and state police are using a no warrant cell phone tower metadata access technique called a "tower dump". A "tower dump" provides the identity, activity and location of all cell phones that connect a cellphone tower(s) over time (an hour or two). The metadata from thousands of phones and numbers connected are then sorted. Australian law-enforcement agencies made 330,000 requests for metadata in 2012-13. AHuxley links to some U.S. views on the same kind of massive data grab: The Wall Street Journal says they caputure innocent users' data; the Chicago Police Department is being sued for information on its purchases of equipment associated with this kind of slurping; and the EFF asks whether warrant protection for users' data will be extended by voice-comm companies as it has been for ISPs. I wonder what people would think of an occasional "postal zone dump" employing the same kind of dragnet but for communications on paper.
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Australian Police Use Telcos For Cell "Tower Dump" of All Connected Users' Data

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  • C'mon, guys, when they aren't even on the same continent, you ought to realize they have their own laws. I know you think American law applies everywhere, but maybe you should try to find some more relevant perspective.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Only an idiot would think the distance makes the news irrelevant. Oh wait, did I call you an idiot. Yes, I did. I guess my threshold for bullshit is getting shorter these days.

      If you think having a supranational "Five Eyes" is healthy for your society, you are not just a mere idiot (look for the etymology of the word), you are fucking retarded.

      • by phmadore (1391487)
        I wish I had not commented solely so I could burn a mod point to put this back up to the 5 points it deserves.
      • by plover (150551)

        TFA tries to compare the legal aspects of one country's police using a legitimate cell tower's data (a "tower dump") with a court request for a copy of the purchase order of a surreptitious TriggerFish by a police force located in a different country. Different countries, different laws, different technologic approach to collecting the data, different accusations. The primary thing they share in common seems to be the outrage they spark.

        • by Sabriel (134364)

          As an Australian, I point out (a) the lack of oversight in both situations, (b) the lack of checks and balances in both situations, (c) the lack of transparency in both situations, and (d) that the phrase "51st state" [wikipedia.org] is not a compliment over here.

          NSW Police, Victoria Police and the Australian Federal Police all declined to comment.

          “It’s another example where [agencies] are collecting the entire haystack in order to find the needle,” Senator Ludlam said in an interview with Fairfax.

    • by morgauxo (974071)

      We hear the claims all the time about other nation's governments copying the bad policies of the US. Do you really think that the US equivalents aren't reading this and getting ideas? That is assuming they aren't doing the same already.

      The world is global now. We should be concerned any time this kind of stuff happens in any country because it will spread into our own.

  • by rmdingler (1955220) on Tuesday July 08, 2014 @08:54AM (#47406449)

    Once the toothpaste is out of the tube, it's hard to get it back in.

    It's too easy for governments now.

    Thus far, all that's come of the wave of revalations from Snowden et al is government's growing willingness to gather our private data in plain sight. With apparent impunity.

  • by rtb61 (674572) on Tuesday July 08, 2014 @09:02AM (#47406473) Homepage

    Apparently those involved in organised crime are using the cheapest possible pre-payphones and sim cards swapping from one to another throughout the day. So police are looking for the odd phone out, coming from locations where tracked suspect persons are. So tracking all calls and eliminating the non-suspect ones to leave the ones they are looking for. So tracking the criminal activity associated with pre-pay phones and sim cards is a little more tricky than the movies make out.

    • Apparently those involved in organised crime are using the cheapest possible pre-payphones and sim cards swapping from one to another throughout the day. So police are looking for the odd phone out, coming from locations where tracked suspect persons are. So tracking all calls and eliminating the non-suspect ones to leave the ones they are looking for. So tracking the criminal activity associated with pre-pay phones and sim cards is a little more tricky than the movies make out.

      Thats not relevant. If criminals figured out how to smuggle drugs deep inside a thier brain stems, that wouldn't give the government the excuse to put up road blocks and perform brain surgery on everyone that happened by.

    • by AHuxley (892839)
      By now the ones not under constant watch or in prison would have worked out to meet face to face without any electronic devices around.
      • by rtb61 (674572)

        Not really, greedy and stupid go hand in hand. So they use the laziest easiest methods to lie, cheat and steal. The only skill they really make use of is the complete and total absence of conscience, although that is not really a skill more a birth defect of bad genes, very bad genes. Add in some IQ and the stop using phones but then they are far more destructive and become politicians and corporate executives.

  • I wonder if anyone would notice a postal zone dump, would it even be relevant anymore? It would probably only turn up pizza ads....
  • by Anonymous Coward

    The US Postal Service already does this...how do you think they get your letter to where you want? The "Meta Data" in this instance for a letter would look something like...I don't know. The front of your envelope. In other words, not "protected" information. And think...they'll be able to know your name...your address...who your correspondence is with, where they live (or at least where you hope to get them a letter) and how much you paid in postage!

    Meta-data is not secret, not private, not protected. If g

    • The US Postal Service already does this... ...snip...

      Meta-data is not secret, not private, not protected. .....snip...

      False military meta-data is classified secret or higher.
      Its classification is a study in why meta data is interesting
      and I suspect shows why it is both an invasion of privacy and a powerful tool.

      The document that contains the COLLECTED set of meta data that
      maps units, individuals, locations and postal delivery information is classified.

      Anyone with family in the service knows that they can sent to
      PFC Joe Soldier APO/FPO/DPO and it gets delivered.

      See: https://www.usps.com/ship/apo-... [usps.com]
      Also see: http://en.wikip [wikipedia.org]

  • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Tuesday July 08, 2014 @09:38AM (#47406627) Homepage Journal

    I wonder what people would think of an occasional "postal zone dump" employing the same kind of dragnet but for communications on paper.

    You don't have to wonder about this, because this is how it is now. The headers of all snailmail (the wrapper of the packet) are machine-logged. Those of us who are technically savvy always suspected this, since we found out that scanning is used for routing. Some of us, like myself, even mentioned the possibility to our postmasters and were told that they were simply throwing this data away after collecting it. But anyone who knows anything about anything knew that this was massively unlikely.

    So, given that this is already happening for literally every piece of mail being sent, just like it happens to literally every piece of email which traverses a long-haul link, why do you wonder? That's how it is right now.

  • by azav (469988) on Tuesday July 08, 2014 @09:39AM (#47406633) Homepage Journal

    All Connected Users' Data

    You need an apostrophe after the final s in Users to show that it is the data of more than one user.

    This is fourth grade English. Come on. Proofread before posting.

  • I'm wondering about the idea of having a group of friends who swap their cell devices. You'd have to change a lot of your comm, but if you use the cellular system just for bandwidth, you don't really care about your cellular identity except for you phone number. If you can migrate your friends to contacting you via internet comm, you don't need to have the same cellular identity from one day to the next.

    Toss in dynamic proxying through SSH, and you aren't exposing your comm fingerprint to your cell provider

    • by phmadore (1391487)
      In Australia that might be the ticket, but here in the US they'll just find a useful program to cut. Last I knew the CIA had a legally undisclosed budgetary dispense [cia.gov], and I wouldn't be at all surprised if NSA falls under the same category. If they don't find a useful program to cut, they'll force the companies to pay for it, who will pass the costs on to us or risk losing capital from shareholders.

      When dealing with an enemy like a government, one cannot assume that its resources are necessarily limited wi
    • by AHuxley (892839)
      Voice prints ;) and you get the inner circle of friends and family trusted to play phone games all day.
      As far as crypto goes, a key logger or software layer to capture every keystroke would be easy to introduce to any consumer device pushed down the tame phone network.
  • WSJ (Score:4, Funny)

    by phmadore (1391487) on Tuesday July 08, 2014 @11:26AM (#47407449) Homepage Journal
    The Wall Street Journal says they caputure innocent users' data

    You know, I'm sure the WSJ did not fucking say that, because for all the money they make they at least spend some of it on a decent spell-check or even, gasp, a human editor. I mean holy motherfuck. Here I am combing the streets, looking for work. You're making hundreds, maybe thousands. maybe even tens of thousands of dollars per hour from the traffic on this site. You can't even spell capture? I mean, in google-chrome-stable it shows me even in this box right here when a word supposedly mis-spelled, though often it's just saying that it's not a word in the dictionary, such as motherfuck. Motherfucker, though, that passes.

    And don't bother blaming the submitter since this part came after his quotation section. You fucking douche bags. Get it together. I don't care about beta; it's your site. But as a thinking person I'm offended that your hacker mentality has not permeated over into the literate part of your fucking brain: never stop improving, motherfucker. I wouldn't be half as good at writing code now if it weren't for the self-criticism and absolute discipline that my early days as a fiction writer instilled in me.

    You fucking turd, seriously. When do we get to start rating the actual posts? Or is this whole feedback thing just a marketing technique for you, totally out of tune with Rob Malda's vision?
  • by ewieling (90662) <(gro.sdronf) (ta) (cire)> on Tuesday July 08, 2014 @12:05PM (#47407835)
    This sort of thing is why I seldom carry a cellphone anymore.
    • by AHuxley (892839)
      Cant get the law reform to need a court document per interesting person? Then just stop using the phone as they are all been noted.

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