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Experts Say Wiretap Law Needs Digital Era Update 54

GovTechGuy writes "Experts at a Congressional hearing Thursday said the government needs to update the Electronic Communications Privacy Act to reflect changes in technology, notably location-based services. On one hand, legal experts argue tracking a mobile user's location should require a higher burden of proof than simply intercepting their communications. On the other hand, first responders may need location data in order to save lives and respond to 911 calls. Either way, expect legislation from the committee later this year."
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Experts Say Wiretap Law Needs Digital Era Update

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  • Expiration (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MillionthMonkey ( 240664 ) on Friday June 25, 2010 @02:04PM (#32693814)
    "The previous section of this Act expires in 5 years from date of enactment."

    How hard is that? They know that five years from now they'll never let something like this expire without an updated version to replace it.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 25, 2010 @02:07PM (#32693886)

    On all cell phones it says allow others to use location service or emergency only. No way to ever turn off the locator. Then they would be required to get a warrant to go get the cell phone tower data. So at that point they would definitely need some burden of proof to get that information, most of the time.

  • Either way (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TheMeuge ( 645043 ) on Friday June 25, 2010 @02:17PM (#32694014)

    Either way, expect legislation from the committee later this year.

    A better prediction would be: "either way, expect everyone you don't want to, to have access to your location data without a court order or notification later this year".

    Why implant tracking devices into the population, if you can get them to willingly carry the tracking devices with them.

    Now, just ensure that the cell phones can be remotely turned on to listen to people's conversations, and you can start building the kind of government from which there is no escape at all.

    I think that within the next 10 years, we either have to learn to live with the idea that EVERYTHING we do or say EVERYWHERE is recorded for subsequent analysis, and WILL be available to the worst of people at the worst of times... or we have to consider that we might need to perform a fairly substantial shakeup of our society in order to avoid it.

    My prediction: we'll learn to live with it. Those who won't, will not be part of the living group.

  • Re:Expiration (Score:4, Insightful)

    by 0100010001010011 ( 652467 ) on Friday June 25, 2010 @02:23PM (#32694118)

    ALL laws should have an expiration date. If something still makes sense in 5/10/15/20 years, it will get repassed.

    My town still has crap like "You can't walk through any city property with a watermellon and fishing pole" from the 1800s.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 25, 2010 @02:25PM (#32694156)

    Stories of this are all over the web, some abusive cop is walking all over somebody's rights, someone else starts recording them on their cell phone, and the Good Samaritan is arrested for filming the cop under wiretapping laws. Even though it's right out in public and there may be five or ten security cameras recording the same area 24/7.

  • by weicco ( 645927 ) on Friday June 25, 2010 @02:25PM (#32694160)

    "Needs digital era update" equals "We need law that enables us to track every citizen when ever we feel like it". It's a synonum to "would someone please think about the children" card. And believe me, there's plenty of people who welcome these laws with open arms because "I got nothing to hide. You obviously do, which tells that we need this law". I've seen this many times in our local Finnish news sites.

  • by TheCarp ( 96830 ) < minus pi> on Friday June 25, 2010 @02:47PM (#32694434) Homepage

    Interesting solution to the wrong problem.

    What they need is easy access to the data, in event of an emergency, and a way to make sure that bypass of the long procedure is ONLY used in emergency. This is, sadly, NOT Uncle Sam's strong suit.

    Take Miranda rights. At first, they read them when you got questioned. Then it was decided that, in cases of emergency, that was not needed, and they could delay reading miranda, to deal with an emergency situation. Ok Fair enough.

    The problem is, this just opened the door to the death of miranda. The times square bomber, for example, had his miranda reading delayed for many hours. I just don't see how they can question him for all that time and still claim that it was due to an emergency that they didn't read him his miranda rights.

    But, now that the lame excuse can be used, it gets used, now EVERY case is a potential emergency. May as well have written the Miranda decision on toilet paper now that the supreme court has all but reversed on it.


  • by Jah-Wren Ryel ( 80510 ) on Friday June 25, 2010 @02:54PM (#32694510)

    or you needed to tell the operator where you located.

    Bingo. Same way it is now with cell phones. I'll swag it, but I doubt that more than 1 in 100,000 E911 calls are the kind where the caller is unable to tell the operator their location. It makes for high-tension commercial-break cliff-hangers to have the protagonist dial 911 and then pass out, but in real life that seems highly unlikely.

  • by kjshark ( 312401 ) on Friday June 25, 2010 @03:11PM (#32694716) Journal

    Cop1: Let's get a warrant.
    Cop2: Don't bother, just say they might be a threat to national security.
    Cop1: Should we bother with the rubber stamp ?
    Cop2: No one else does.
    Cop1: Thanks, FISA ! []

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 25, 2010 @03:13PM (#32694734)

    Also add the corollary: If compromises are to be achieved, expect the worst of all worlds.

  • by peragrin ( 659227 ) on Friday June 25, 2010 @03:28PM (#32694936)

    Actually it was closer to 1-100

    Remember police or EMS pulling up to the house two doors down can delay response time by five minutes or more. There are also numerous cases of ems responders pulling up to a house finding out nothing was wrong and leaving only to find out they were on the wrong side of the road. Or having the wrong apartment number out of hundred of possibles.

    The person doesn't have to pass out either having a hard time breathings also causes trouble.

    E911 locationion data was passed as laws as the average person with a cell phone doesn't know where they are. Instead of sounding smug why don't you study some history. While there are stupid laws in the USA most were passed for reasons that actually make sense when you understand the average person is an idiot.

  • by Hotawa Hawk-eye ( 976755 ) on Friday June 25, 2010 @03:32PM (#32695010)
    Passing out is just one reason a caller may not be able to tell the operator their location.
    • The caller may be physically able to tell the operator their location but may also be extremely scared and/or panicked and so unable to respond coherently to the operator's request for their location.
    • The caller may be in unfamiliar surroundings and so not know exactly where they are ("I'm somewhere along Route 23, but there's nothing I can see in either direction".)
    • The caller may not be able to explain very well where they are (particularly if the caller is a young child calling because of a medical emergency or a non-native English speaker.)
    • The phone is ripped from the caller's hand by an assailant before they have a chance to tell the operator their location.

    I wouldn't have a problem with my phone's location being sent to the 911 dispatcher if I initiated the call -- I'd be willing to volunteer that information in that situation. I wouldn't be quite as happy if someone else could ask my phone where it is without my knowledge/consent -- if you want to ask my phone to provide that information, ask me first.

  • Wiretap updates (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Wowsers ( 1151731 ) on Friday June 25, 2010 @03:37PM (#32695086) Journal
    A message to all the people in the US.

    Dear Citizen,

    We don't care about the courts or the Constitution with respect to your rights and privacy, and we will carry on doing what we like in secret.

    Yours Sincerely,
    Past / Present / Future President of the USA

Machines that have broken down will work perfectly when the repairman arrives.