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FBI Tries To Force Google To Unlock User's Android Phone 385

Trailrunner7 writes "Those multi-gesture passcode locks on Android phones that give users (and their spouses) fits apparently present quite a challenge for the FBI as well. Frustrated by a swipe passcode on the seized phone of an alleged gang leader, FBI officials have requested a search warrant that would force Google to 'provide law enforcement with any and all means of gaining access, including login and password information, password reset, and/or manufacturer default code ("PUK"), in order to obtain the complete contents of the memory of cellular telephone.' The request is part of a case involving an alleged gang leader and human trafficker named Dante Dears in California. Dears served several years in prison for his role in founding a gang in California called PhD, and upon his release he went back to his activities with the gang, according to the FBI's affidavit."
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FBI Tries To Force Google To Unlock User's Android Phone

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @08:06PM (#39359347)

    is becoming ever more important. In fact, it will soon replace the constitution as the thing you can always depend upon.


  • by sandytaru ( 1158959 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @08:08PM (#39359359) Journal
    If they have enough probable cause to suspect there's even more evidence on the phone and are going through the proper procedures of obtaining a warrant, then I don't have a problem with this. If they were not in the middle of a trial case, however, I'd think this would fall under "unreasonable searches and seizures."
  • by artfulshrapnel ( 1893096 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @08:12PM (#39359419)

    Yeah, seems reasonable to me.

    Your cellphone is not some magical box of protected data. If you've been committing crimes, and you get arrested for it, everything you've ever recorded is going to get looked at during that case. That includes the contents of your cellphone, and the police have the legal right to force entry to just about anything once they have probable cause.

    I mean, it's not like they randomly pulled this guy out of line at an airport and demanded he unlock his phone. They've got witness testimony, previous convictions, and I'm assuming some more concrete evidence that he is a criminal. They're just trying to figure out if he's done anything ELSE, and corroborate their evidence wherever possible.

  • by russotto ( 537200 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @08:23PM (#39359499) Journal

    Now, not that I'm a lawyer or anything, but it looks like a properly served warrant for access to a specific device.

    Well, first of all, it's a rubber stamped warrant. Literally.

    Second, Google is unlikely to have some of the information requested; the PUK of the SIM would be known by the SIM manufacturer, not the maker of the phone's operating system. Same goes for text messaging; it goes through the carrier, not Google.

    Third, the records are unlikely to be physically at Google Legal Investigations Support.

    Fourth, some of the "items requested" amount to a fishing expedition -- so much for "particular" descriptions of the places to be searched or items seized.

  • Re:Hashes (Score:4, Insightful)

    by kenshin33 ( 1694322 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @08:24PM (#39359509)
    depending on phone it is easy, samsung usually have an unlocked bootloader ... you can flash whatever recovery image you want, if the phone is not encrypted ... well you get access to any data you want (using adb, CWM recovery has adb enabled with root access by default).
    if it is the nexus S there's an easy way to unlock the bootloader without wiping the device (found on xda). for the see previous paragraph.
  • by amiga3D ( 567632 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @08:29PM (#39359543)

    Exactly! This is how law enforcement is supposed to act. They have a suspect, they provide reasons to a judge, get a warrant and Google opens the device. If you're involved in crime don't keep anything incriminating on your phone. I mean really, these are the kinds of assholes law enforcement should be locking up.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @08:29PM (#39359553)

    Silly me - here I was thinking it was a failure of Mr. Dears to behave in a socially responsible adult manner, instead of engaging in petty crime and preying on the weak.

    Society doesn't owe him a $500 a night job. Society doesn't owe him a cushy life free of any bad luck.

  • Re:Brute force? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by betterunixthanunix ( 980855 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @08:33PM (#39359581)
    I am not even sure why they would need to brute force anything -- if they can dump the contents of the phone's memory, why not just inspect the contents? Unless I am mistaken, those lock screens are not being used to encrypt the contents of the phone.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @08:51PM (#39359707)

    Right - because if prostitution were legal, non thugs would be signing up all over the place to run brothels, just like strip clubs.

    I hear you on legalizing, but really, it would still be run by thugs. its prostitution. it's never going to be legitimate even if its not illegal.

  • by bmo ( 77928 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @08:51PM (#39359711)

    It's not the goal because nobody ever thinks of the long term effects of the system we have versus the system we could have.

    And we, as a society, pay through the nose for it. If you think corrections costs too much, look in the mirror.


  • by black3d ( 1648913 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @09:30PM (#39359997)

    I'm not sure you're arguing against the correct aspect of his post. He's stating the facts of the statistics - he even mentions himself that those are the statistics. It *is* a fact that for a random robbery, it's 8 times more likely to have been committed by a black than a white. (And likewise, the individual mentioned is more *likely* to be black than white purely on a statistical basis). What's wrong with his post is that he doesn't take into account causation, and the causation is not that they're black, but other socio-economic factors, of which race is merely a correlation. That's not to say each individual isn't responsible for his crimes, but that race isn't the determining factor of why the crime occurrs.

    For about a year at one point, I lived in a small island chain populated almost entirely by blacks - around 60,000 to 200 whites. However, the only murder in the last 20 years, had been committed by a white. Is it because he was white? No. And the statistics OP used to make his case are equally flawed simply in that respect.

  • by russotto ( 537200 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @09:45PM (#39360085) Journal

    IMHO the case as such is sufficiently egregious so as to justify an extremely broad warrant without much consideration by a judge.

    First of all, the Constitution doesn't allow warrants which don't particularly describe places to be searched and things to be seized, no matter how egregious the circumstances. The Supreme Court has ruled that the judges do have to exercise judgement when approving them (though this is honored more in the breach than the observance).

    Second, law enforcement is very good at painting defendants in a bad light. Look up the Kevin Mitnick case; whatever Mitnick did, it is NOT true that he could have started a nuclear war by whistling into a pay phone. In this case, they use "human trafficking" as a scare term; it appears he's actually a run of the mill pimp.

  • by Jah-Wren Ryel ( 80510 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @09:47PM (#39360105)

    Silly me - here I was thinking it was a failure of Mr. Dears to behave in a socially responsible adult manner, instead of engaging in petty crime and preying on the weak.

    Silly you indeed. We are society so we can change it. We are not Dears so we can't change him. That you equate fixing systemic problems with giving criminals "a cushy life" indicates that you don't really give a damn about society.

  • Re:Brute force? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Imrik ( 148191 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @10:22PM (#39360287) Homepage

    Last time I checked credit cards stored important information in plaintext.

  • by black3d ( 1648913 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @10:40PM (#39360407)

    I understand your point completely, and its why I always try to warn people to avoid statistics in virtually any decision making, especially where scale is important. I was merely pointing out the thing to argue with him over is not the statistics, as statistics can be used to prove or disprove, anything. Like in your example, where there's a 1:2 probability of me seeing a dinosaur in my backyard. Of course if you expand this, the probability of one being found in each ADDITIONAL backyard tested reduces to almost zero. But at that stage both you at the start and the second individual at the end, are statistically correct.

    Although, your dinosaur method could be shown to be fundamentally flawed as you need a baseline from which to start, One I like to throw around because it shows the importance of scale and parameters is "For each person you see today, they are more likely to be asian than any other race," and "If you see twenty people today, the probability that none of them are Asian is less than 1%". Yet of course, in many places and countries around the world you can go weeks and not see a single Asian. (BTW, I'm not commenting on Asians, just on how localization affects statistics).

    What I was trying to say was don't argue the statistics - it's fighting a losing battle if you're speaking to anyone who doesn't understand probability but knows how to quote numbers. Instead, attack the methedology of their conclusions. The key sentence in his post to attack would be "Blacks are much more likely to be violent and criminal." This is a correlation != causation example. :)

  • by Ethanol-fueled ( 1125189 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @10:42PM (#39360431) Homepage Journal
    Bullshit. The middlemen (pimps) would be taken out of the equation entirely because prostitutes would be empowered to have total control over their enterprise, as they do on craigslist and other sites.

    Legalizing prostitution increases profits (not having to pay a pimp), allowing women or men to "vet" their dates in advance(the high-class prostitutes are frequently grad students who target single and successful dorks like you for $400 per session) and eliminates violence and urban blight by shifting the acts to private residences.

    But like the lazy, brutish, and entirely misguided crackdowns on Marijuana; legalized prostitution ain't gonna fly in Ammurika anytime soon, especially with loonies like Santorum seriously considered candidates for president.
  • by Charliemopps ( 1157495 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @10:55PM (#39360511)
    I think that one thing we can agree on is that statistics are total horseshit. Sure, if done by a totally impartial party (which doesn't exist) they might be useful. But in something as divisive as race, crime, punishment, slavery, social equality, who is really impartial? Ask yourself a few questions and you soon realize how pointless these statistics are...

    1. Who is black? Most blacks have a large part of their genetics made up of Caucasian genes. Look at our president. I'm white, my son is adopted from the heart of Africa, 100% African genes. Is he black? Certainly... but how does he fall into these statistics? He's going to have the up-bringing of any white-middle class child.

    2. Who's collecting these statistics? The judicial system? The judicial system has been proven prejudice by hundreds of studies over the years. They convict more minorities of crimes, they give them longer sentences, they charge them with more infractions. They pull over a white kid with a pocket knife and they call his parents, they get a black kid with the same knife and he's getting charged with a felony. Are blacks really twice as likely to commit a crime with a knife? Or are they just twice as likely to get convicted?

    3. The AC poster is clearly a troll and probably doesn't even believe in what he's saying. So there's that.
  • by geekoid ( 135745 ) <dadinportland@NOSpAm.yahoo.com> on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @11:00PM (#39360535) Homepage Journal

    I can not believe you are modded up.

    A) They have cause. AS in peple testifing against him, accusing him.

    B) They know he did business on his phone

    D) It's not a fishing hunt. It is a normal, reasonable and valid request.

    The only question is 'Do they need permission for a wiretap'?

  • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @11:53PM (#39360791) Journal

    The request is part of a case involving an alleged gang leader and human trafficker named Dante Dears in California.

    If the only way they can bust a "human trafficker" is by getting into his cellular phone, maybe they need to do a little more police work.

    The criminal justice system allows a hell of a lot of latitude to law enforcement. Legal wire taps, surveillance, search warrants. Informants, RICO, DNA evidence, even tax evasion investigations.

    I've seen The Wire and The Shield, Kojak, Columbo and even Mannix. There are plenty of ways to take down a perp, and if all else fails, you put a couple in his noggin, drop a throw-down piece on him and say he drew down on you. Then you go home and sleep like a baby.

    But they tell us the only way they can lock up a gang leader involved in human trafficking is by checking his Angry Birds high score.

    Just sayin'...

  • by plover ( 150551 ) * on Thursday March 15, 2012 @12:47AM (#39361055) Homepage Journal

    So you think "run of the mill pimps" somehow deserve a pass on human trafficking? Is that because they're too numerous to arrest? They have too much evidence against cops, judges, and politicians? Or is it because they just traffic in "hoes", not "people"?

    The Ars article mentions a woman who he locked in the trunk of a car to prevent her escape. In what corner of the world do you live in where would that be dismissed as "run of the mill"? What kinds of people are willing to accept that behavior? Is it because she's not your daughter or sister, so it's OK that a pimp keeps her on the streets?

    I agree that law enforcement often overstates their case, and try to throw a dozen charges at someone in hopes that one might stick. But this is the signed statement of an agent who interviewed a witnesses who directly observed the convicted parolee texting women who then appeared and delivered money to him throughout the evening. That's plenty of evidence to at least ask a judge to issue a search warrant for the phone. The judge could say no, of course, but this affidavit doesn't seem out of line for such requests.

    He's already violating the terms of his parole agreement by not divulging his password to the FBI. The guy could certainly rot in jail for the rest of his sentence, with no more effort on anyone's part. But if additional crimes have been committed, they should be tried as well.

  • by plover ( 150551 ) * on Thursday March 15, 2012 @01:03AM (#39361125) Homepage Journal

    He's already guilty of the crimes he committed before, and he has not yet completed his sentence for those crimes. He's on parole after being released early from prison. Actually, he's on parole for a second time, after having violated the terms of his parole earlier and going back to prison for an additional year and a hafl.

    One of the terms of his parole is that he must not have a mobile phone. Another one of the terms is that any passwords, encryption, to any information whatsoever that he has, he will immediately provide the means to access that data upon demand of his parole officer. He denied to his parole officer that he had a mobile phone, but his parole officer found it and seized it. The parole officer had every right to do so under the terms of his parole. He's also refused to provide the account and password information to access it, even though he agreed to provide it as a condition of his early release. So he's already in violation of two of the terms of his parole, and for that alone he gets to go back to prison. There is no additional trial needed -- he has already been found guilty of his original crimes. The terms of parole have nothing to do with "innocent until proven guilty." That bit of justice ended with his verdict. He is guilty.

    As far as these new allegations and crimes go, he needs to stand trial for them. But he's already a convicted felon who was let loose from prison too early, twice. "Wholly innocent" is not a factual statement one uses to describe this felon.

  • by LordLimecat ( 1103839 ) on Thursday March 15, 2012 @01:07AM (#39361135)

    In this case, they use "human trafficking" as a scare term; it appears he's actually a run of the mill pimp.

    What is it that you suppose a pimp does, exactly?

  • by wrook ( 134116 ) on Thursday March 15, 2012 @02:41AM (#39361507) Homepage

    You certainly do have limits in most countries. Calling someone guilty of a crime in public may very well be libel or slander. If the person is declared innocent in a trial your assertion that they are guilty could land you in hot water.

    I haven't even RTFA so I have absolutely no clue one way or another. But it isn't unheard of for the press to take a juicy story and run with it, leaving just enough unsaid to protect them from a lawsuit (sometimes they don't even do that). Judging people based solely on reports in the newspaper is quite unfair and legally dangerous.

    Of course, I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice.

  • by Nursie ( 632944 ) on Thursday March 15, 2012 @02:51AM (#39361543)

    I can't name the society you're after, but I can make a couple ofr suggestions -

    Stop criminalising things that people want to pay for.

    Obviously this doesn't extend as a blanket rule. I'm sure some people would like to pay for murder, and we don't want to legalise taht. But in terms of drugs and prostitution we have a situation in which large numbers of otherwise law-abiding citizens are conspiring with the criminals to get money to them for goods or services. The result is that you get a mess of violent gangs with a lot of funding, you get low-quality drugs, you get human trafficking and abused women.

    Legalise and regulate both and you eliminate a lot of this crap because you take away the black market aspect that keeps the cash flowing to criminal organisations. You won't end up with a perfect utopia by any means, but you will end up with a lot less people acting as willing accomplices to criminal arseholes.

  • by hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <bassbeast1968@gm ... minus herbivore> on Thursday March 15, 2012 @07:12AM (#39362357) Journal

    Actually, and I'm sure the left leaning on this site will scream and hit the downmod for me daring to point this out but it isn't blacks its AMERICAN blacks which have embraced a VERY destructive pattern of attacking those that try to get an education while worshiping the wasting of money and the whole "thug life!" bullshit that is the cause of the much higher crimerates among blacks, that and 50 years of white guilt that caused more damage to the black community than dropping an atomic bomb on them. Instead of hand ups all they got were hand outs that rewarded destructive behavior like having more unwed mothers with more unwanted children and the community itself not only not condemning this behavior but actually treating it as a valid "lifestyle" certainly didn't help matters any.

    But if you do look at the stats you'll see a black just off the boat from Africa, despite language and culture barriers, is something like 9 times more likely to become middle class than an American black that has the advantage of being born here. I would argue this is entirely due to culture and the almost pathological hatred for anything that can be considered "white" like education. I have actually witnessed this myself, with friends that were actually trying to get ahead being openly ridiculed and attacked by others in the community and even in their own family, who have a "you think you are better than me Uncle Tom?" attitude to those trying to get ahead. i just haven't seen this kind of hatred for those trying to do better in any other race. Hell when my son was accepted into the college's premed on a full scholarship we were all happy he was gonna do better than us, but the attitude in the black community would have been to attack. To me that just doesn't compute and its no wonder there is so much crime when you have the worship of money in the form of wasted wealth like "bling" and rims and Caddys but attack the ways one can legally earn those things.

    As for TFA as more and more people live off their cell i'm sure we'll see this more often, big bro don't like not being able to get into anything they want at anytime. i have to wonder if it is not sheer laziness on the part of the police, as in the old days they would actually investigate whereas now with GPS and cells and a bazillion other easy sources of information all it takes is access to the data and you can find out anything you want about an individual. Kinda sad that you don't really need big bro to plant a tracker on you as the corps have made sure you are shackled to that smartphone 24/7 that makes it easy enough to track your every move. I have to wonder if that isn't the real future of big brother, that it won't be the governments who will just become impotent stoolies but the multinational corps who end up ruling vast nation states like in the classic rollerball. As someone with whom i was discussing Brave New World VS 1984 pointed out to me we are living in BNW right now, with every pleasure on demand and endless information and he wondered if they aren't simply too sides to the same coin, you start off with BNW and then as the system breaks down as more and more simply can't afford the endless distractions and trappings of BNW it slowly morphs into 1984 as the elite build more and more safeguards into the system to protect themselves from the masses of poor who get tired of being hungry and never getting ahead.

  • by Bongo ( 13261 ) on Thursday March 15, 2012 @08:34AM (#39362673)

    That sort of culture isn't just part of one group, though.

    I recall my Scottish grandmother showing similar contempt for her children when they made moves to improve themselves. It became a life long resentment that destroyed the relationships and the hatred was never healed. Another example from a previous generation, a son and his wife who left Pakistan for the UK, to find better opportunities, was spat at by his mother and she said she hoped they all died on the voyage.

    Modern life demands that individuals leave their family and community loyalty behind and go where the opportunities are.

    Those who don't shift into that modern mindset will remain poor.

    If that sort of attitude sounds hard to believe, you have to bear in mind at that time in Scotland, it was considered wise to have all your teeth pulled when you were a teenager so you wouldn't face medical bills later on. When people are very poor all they have is family loyalty. So what makes you strong is also what holds you back in modern life.

  • by cayenne8 ( 626475 ) on Thursday March 15, 2012 @10:02AM (#39363381) Homepage Journal

    The core problem is that it appears that people who are black in the US are more likely to be in poverty than the national average.

    True...but I think a lot of this, in this day in age, is a problem the black community has with their value system. You don't see blacks (largely) trying to promote someone getting an education, and trying to get a job and have good family life.

    The careers they often glorify are:

    1. Athlete

    2. Rapper / Thug

    Well, #1, just doesn't happen to the majority of people, and well, #2 doesn't happen that often either, and strangely enough, #2 has glorified connections with music to gang life...and that's another dead end street.

    What can be done about it? You can't legislate it...it has to come from the black community themselves. I've heard leaders, and successful black people extoll the same....Bill Cosby for example, stands up and has said it like it is, for blacks to take responsibility for their own lives and success, for fathers to be responsible to their children.

    Sadly, often, other blacks put them down for telling the truth that many out there see.

    Back when I was in school...I saw this in action. I saw fellow black students, who WERE head of the class, involved in the school (student govt., student body president), in the honors classes.....yet, they were openly put down by the majority of blacks in the school....actually telling him to "stop acting white". I mean....with that kind of attitude and culture that perpetuates itself....sure, you see blacks stay in poverty. You also see the ones that DO get an education and work and succeed...move the fuck out of the black community, so that their kids don't get caught up in that 'culture', which often leads nowhere, and at its worst...prison and/or death.

    Sure, there is still racism. For that matter, you see it on BOTH sides of the black and white line....lots of hatred towards whites from blacks, I see that too. But it isn't the impediment to success that it was decades ago. Somehow, the culture of victimhood for blacks, needs to be tossed out and have a culture of success and hard work and family values embraced.

    But, like I said before, you can't legislate that. It somehow has to be generated from within....but only the black community can do that themselves, and well.....that certainly doesn't seem to be working, at least from someone like myself looking in from the outside.

"If it's not loud, it doesn't work!" -- Blank Reg, from "Max Headroom"