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Court Orders Gov't To Disclose GPS Tracking Data 40

First time accepted submitter concealment sent in this link which reads: "United States law enforcement officials have been utilizing data provided by global positioning satellite systems to track down individual suspects, without having to demonstrate probable cause before a judge first — that much is known. Rights groups such as the ACLU have wondered, just how much of that goes on? The rights group's investigation of this practice has inadvertently triggered a renewal of the debate over privacy policy versus public disclosure, and whether it's possible for an agency or other entity to reveal data that could lead to further revelation of personally identifiable data (PID), without officially violating privacy. The final outcome could set a new precedent for privacy policy, not just by the government but for enterprises as well."
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Court Orders Gov't To Disclose GPS Tracking Data

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  • I thought GPS was a one way thing?

    Devices don't connect to the satellite.. so how is the GPS system providing tracking info to anyone? The logical assumption is they are talking about GPS tracking devices being used ... but the article is written as if they are pulling the data off the satellites or something.

    The clumsy wording completely distracted me from the actual point of the article! .. I'm such a geek :(

    • I think it largely is, when the device that's attached to it isn't broadcasting the data FROM the GPS via 3G radio.
      • Bingo. Cell phones are really really REALLY good at this, and app developers are really really REALLY keen on you giving their app 'location information'.
    • Semantics is what the law is all about.
    • by Sun ( 104778 ) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @03:04PM (#37331084) Homepage

      I'm not sure whether you actually got it in the end or not, but just to make sure...

      The Police are not using your GPS in order to track you. As you said, it is a one-way device (though, to be honest, a-gps does reveal your general whereabouts to anyone listening, as it reveals what satellites you're interested in).

      What this is talking about is a government program where they discreetly place a GPS + GSM module inside your car, and then track where you are going, without a warrant or probable cause.


      • The ruling could also extend precedence for the legality of non-government entities doing this as well; Private Investigators and crazy ex girlfriends.
        • by Sun ( 104778 )

          What I'm really interested in knowing - if anyone may do it to anyone, can I plant such a device inside a police car?


          • If you can do it on public property and without breaking and entering the vehicle, according to the police it is perfectly legal.

            • by Sun ( 104778 )

              Except police claim they can do it if a car is inside a garage, and they connect the device to the car's battery. It does not sound as if either criteria is being met.


    • by ZOP ( 240653 ) * on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @03:06PM (#37331100) Homepage

      GPS itself is most definitely one way. The constellation of satellites blanket the earth with their signals. A GPS receiver decodes all of them, and needs to decode at least 3 in parallel to get a location fix, the more it can decode in parallel the closer the fix will be. Add WAAS data which will help the GPS device to correct for minor atmospheric variations too. But it is all one way, receive only. The only way for location data to get off of a device is via some non-GPS medium. 3G/4G/WiFi are the most common. Some devices (iPhone) and software (Google Latitude/Maps) log and correllate this data in various ways, and upload it.

      A telephone carriers systems have, at any given point in time, at least rough knowledge of a location of every single phone on it's network. It has to, it's part of the system and protocols, and they don't work without this knowledge. That is NOT the same as people/persons having the data and having access to it. It is also not the same as having a historical record, or archive/log of this location data, but that data is strictly limited to the 3G/4G/CDMA/GSM/etc network coverage information and signal strength information. During a 911/E911 call that data, along with the phones own location data is used to get a position fix on the phone that is passed along to E911 capable centers, I don't know exactly how this works since I've never worked that side of things.

      So it's not really GPS, so much as publishing the results of a GPS fix (location data) by some other means. I haven't looked at the case or anything, and I REALLY hope that they're not making such an elementary mistake. Since GPS in and of itself is one way, and one way only.

      • And, just like the famous "US Courts don't care how you got in front of the court, as long you you there there..."

        HOW isn't important.

        The law doesn't say the FBI can't swipe your phone for an identical one and use it record you. It only says if they get CAUGHT doing it, it's NOT proof that you commited a crime.

        They can still ask you to post yourself the results of your gps data, manually, and it can be irreceivable as entrapment.

        A lot of the laws about evidence revolve a lot more about preventing the polic

        • by sjames ( 1099 )

          The law doesn't say the FBI can't swipe your phone for an identical one and use it record you. It only says if they get CAUGHT doing it, it's NOT proof that you commited a crime.

          Actually, it does. Since there can be no legitimate law enforcement purpose to a violation of the Constitution, it becomes a common crime. It's just one in a long list of crimes that are ignored because they were committed by the in-crowd.

        • by maxume ( 22995 )

          So the FBI is allowed to just steal people's possessions?


      • GPS itself is most definitely one way.

        Thats just what they want you to think.. Why do you think we insist on TinFoil?

        • by ZOP ( 240653 ) *

          Only the best will do, reynolds heavy duty food-grade! Anything else and they will FRY YOUR MIND!

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The police don't give a damn whether or not your rights are oppressed. They have exactly one priority and that's "finishing the job". Justice or injustice, it doesn't matter to them -- what matters is that the work is "done", and the boss is satisfied.

    It's no surprise at all that they will undermine basic civil rights -- even demonize them -- in their attempt to "finish the job". It doesn't take a genius to realize that the goal of law enforcement isn't justice at all -- it's maintaining power for those who

  • I imagine the GPS traking data to be a very boring file comprised of the following
    (device id), ((ime), (GPS coords)

    Unless you know who (device id) belongs to, its not going to be of much interest.

    • by ZOP ( 240653 ) *

      One of the things people are more and more concerned about is correlation of data from disparate sources to get the original data back. Take for example credit card receipts. If retailer A blacks out all but the last 4 digits, and retailer B blacks out only the last 4 digits, get the two receipts together, and you have at least a credit card number. Maybe retailer C gives only the last 4 digits but also prints a name, and retailer D only prints an expiration date and the first four digits. Get all of th

      • The first 6 and last 4 digits of a card number are just about useless. The numbers in the middle (and the code on the back) are the important parts. Even still, it's a far cry from having the track 2 data...

        • by ZOP ( 240653 ) *

          Re-read ;) I stated the first two retailers gave you enough data to get the full CC number. I added the other two as an example of piecing more data together from more sources. Each piece by itself isn't very meaningful, and may not even be personally identifiable data. But taken together, it is. I'm personally pretty mixed-feelings about the whole thing. One one hand, it's kind of inevitable for personal details to end up out there, on the other, we should protect them. CC companies, banks, etc, cou

          • For your first example, they don't. Well, if they did exactly what you wrote, then you should report them because they are doing something explicitly not allowed. They are prohibited from showing any card number digits beyond the first 6 or last 4.

            Regarding the CSC/CVV2 - there is a business incentive to provide it. The more security information they can provide, the lower the fee they pay the processor to handle it. Eg, if they can provide the full track 2 data, they receive an even lower fee than if they

    • by Kunnis ( 756642 )
      But you can figure out form the GPS Cords where the person lives. I know my truck spends about 1/3 of it's time at my house, 1/4 of it's time right outside where I work. Google (or several other services) can do the coords to address lookup. I'd say that's pretty personally identifible.
    • Over the night, at another address most of the day, all we have to do is look up who lives at that night address, maybe see if he works at that day address. Now we know everywhere he's been.

      Now say it often goes from day address to another address for an hour, then to night address. Gym? Girlfriend? Mistress?

    • by tqk ( 413719 )

      I imagine the GPS traking data to be a very boring file comprised of the following
      (device id), ((ime), (GPS coords)

      Unless you know who (device id) belongs to, its not going to be of much interest.

      You've limited imagination. Parse the data for times and locations, look for patterns. You may learn the data shows they show up at such and such Starbucks (or their significant other's place, or their dope dealer's) at so and so time regularly. It shouldn't be difficult to figure out who it belongs to from there. They don't even need to stake it out. CCTV or simply a timely drive-by could confirm it.

      As so much of what passes for police work these days appears to be little more than glorified fishing e

  • by pavon ( 30274 ) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @03:10PM (#37331144)

    In order to obtain data without a warrant, the authorities must have a convincing argument that people do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy when it comes to that data. By claiming the personal privacy exemption to the FOIA to prevent releasing the data, the government is contradicting it's previous claim that they didn't need a warrant to get the data in the first place.

  • The only reason the RFID wasn't pushed with more force is that through cell-phones and other GPS services, we have effectively volunteered to have implanted something far worse than the RFID - embedded not in the flesh, but in the psyche. As for "probable cause", such is now defined better in terms of "penal whimsy".
  • It amazes me, but understandable, the tenacity that organizations desire to undermine privacy. Privacy is a concept. How do you hack a concept? I imagine the problem is when the concept is manifested through case law. Hacking of privacy must have to do with studying case law and then arguing that privacy has been defined and certain concepts are not included in the old world understanding of "privacy".

    The lack of technology was not the issue for why privacy came to be - essentially, there is no way to know

  • by Anonymous Coward

    We can't disclose whether or not we're breaking the law, because to do so may break the law.

  • Yeah, Right... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by IonOtter ( 629215 ) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @07:26PM (#37334296) Homepage

    Judge: Release the records.

    Government: No.

    Judge: What?? I said release them!

    Government: We said no.

    Judge: Release them, or else!

    Government: Or else what?

    Judge: ...

    • Judge: Release the records.

      Government: No.

      Judge: What?? I said release them!

      Government: We said no.

      Judge: Release them, or else!

      Government: Or else what?

      Judge: Due to your refusal to comply with a Court order any evidence you gathered due to the use of GPS data is unusable in these proceedings!

    • Nixon tried that one already.

    • Ideal Result: Judge holds agent in contempt of court. Agent's supervisor shows up, refuses to release the data, also jailed for contempt. Agency quickly figures out there is a problem, tries some workaround method to get agents out of jail, which leads to congressional hearings.

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