No Warrant, No Problem; How Government Buys Its Way Around the 4th Amendment

When the Supreme Court ruled in 2018 that law enforcement agencies need warrants before they can request geolocation data from cell phone companies, civil liberties advocates touted the judgment as a major win for privacy.

But since then, government agencies have devised a new surveillance method: instead of getting warrants to force companies to provide data, they simply purchase the information from brokers. Call it entrepreneurial innovation in the market for tyranny.

The scope of this activity has been slowly revealed over the last year, beginning with a February 2020 Wall Street Journal article, which reported that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has “bought access to a commercial database that maps the movements of millions of cellphones in American and is using it for immigration and border enforcement.” Later reports revealed that Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) purchase similar data.

Had the world not essentially collapsed about a month later, this might have been big news. Alas, government’s data purchases have gone largely unpublicized in the midst of pandemics, riots, elections, and so on.

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Absurdity: Automated Police Surveillance Will Reduce Racial Bias And Allow People To “Maintain A Safe Lifestyle”

As the pandemic enters its second year, two recent stories used to justify increasing public surveillance seem almost too incredible to believe.

Two years ago, I reported on an absurd claim about how the Riverhead Police Departments’ surveillance drones could be used to create a “community connection.”

Splitting Riverhead’s current police foot patrol sector into two sectors would “create more of a community connection in the area that the officers are patrolling,” Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith said. “There’s more eyes and ears in the area, and hopefully that will lead to more people coming to shop and recreate in downtown more.”

In my story I noted how the Department Of Justice’s guidebook the “Community Policing & Unmanned Aircraft Systems: Guidelines to Enhance Community Trust” was designed to help law enforcement convince the American public to accept surveillance drones.

The Police Foundation, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, has developed this guidebook to help public safety agencies successfully assess the appropriateness of acquiring a sUAS in their jurisdiction, all the while ensuring public support, avoiding public-relations pitfalls, and enhancing community trust along the way.

A recent Fox 5 DC story about traffic cameras could rise to the top of my absurd reasons to convince the public to accept more police surveillance.

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New “See Something, Say Something Online Act” Turns Social Media Users Into Spies

Senator Joe Manchin wants to bring DHS’s spy on your neighbors, “If You See, Something Say Something”  program to social media, blogs, websites, and much more. Manchin’s bill, the “See Something, Say Something Online Act” would essentially turn social media users into Federal spies by forcing them to report suspicious people to law enforcement.

Just how bad is this bill?

This bill would essentially force anyone on social media to report suspicious “transmissions” to law enforcement.

“Known Suspicious Transmission.—The term ‘‘known suspicious transmission’’ is any suspicious transmission that an interactive computer service should have reasonably known to have occurred or have been notified of by a director, officer, employ, agent, interactive computer service user, or State or Federal law enforcement agency.”

Major Crime —The term ‘‘major crime’’ means a Federal criminal offense that is a crime of violence (as defined 13 in section 16 of title 18, United States Code); relating to domestic or international terrorism (as those terms are defined in section 16 2331 of title 18, United States Code)

What exactly is a known suspicious transmission or major crime?

The term “suspicious transmission” means any public or private post, message, comment, tag, transaction, or any other user-generated content or transmission that commits, facilitates, incites, promotes, or otherwise assists the commission of a major crime.

How could social media users, bloggers, web forum moderators, web conferencing users, etc. know that a comment left or uttered by someone would later lead to them committing a major crime?

The See Something, Say Something Online Act would force social media users into red-flagging every person’s comments just in case someone commits a major crime in the future.

This bill would effectively destroy the First Amendment as we know it, dispelling any vestiges of America still being a free country.

Social media users would be forced to submit a Suspicious Transmission Activity Report (STAR) on suspicious individuals within 30 days.

“In General.—If a provider of an interactive computer service detects a suspicious transmission, the interactive computer service, including any director, officer, employee, agent, or representative of such provider, shall submit to the Department a STAR describing the suspicious transmission in accordance with this section.”

As Reason warned, the See Something, Say Something Online Act would put reporting on your fellow American on steroids. It would create a glut of frivolous reports, including many that are politically motivated, or otherwise disingenuous.

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Woman Gets Late-Night Police Visit For Anti-Mask Facebook Posts

Florida hair and makeup artist and mother of three Angelique Contreras received an intimidating late-night knock on the door from a law enforcement officer in Palm Beach County after she published anti-mask posts on Facebook. NATIONAL FILE has obtained video footage of this disturbing 10:30 PM encounter. Contreras verbally confirmed with the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office that it was a sheriff’s officer who made the house call.

According to Contreras, Palm Beach County is trying to send citizens who can’t wear masks due to medical exemptions into a parking garage basement while County Commission meetings take place. Local press reporting confirms that mask-exempt citizens who want to speak at meetings will be sent to a separate building beneath a parking garage, instead of being able to address their leaders directly. When a man on Facebook joked about dumping garbage onto a County Administrator’s lawn, Contreras replied with the retort, “thousands of Mask(s).” This was enough to get the sheriff’s office to show up to her house, with the officer making clear that such Facebook posts are monitored in this day and age. Contreras’ children are aged 11, 3, and 1.

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Court Docs Show FBI Can Intercept Encrypted Messages From Deep State-Backed ‘Signal’ App

Recent court documents have indicated that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) possesses a tool allowing them to access encrypted messages on the Signal app.

Signal has rapidly gained in popularity as Silicon Valley monopolists have grown more openly hostile to free speech, but the platform may be vulnerable to backdoors that undermine the privacy protections provided through the encrypted messaging service.

According to documents filed by the Department of Justice and first obtained by Forbes, Signal’s encrypted messages can be intercepted from iPhone devices when those Apple devices are in a mode called  “partial AFU,” which means “after first unlock.”

When phones are in partial AFU mode, Signal messages can be seized by federal authorities and other potentially hostile interests. GrayKey and Cellebrite are the tools typically used by the FBI to gain this sensitive information, an expert has explained.

“It uses some very advanced approach using hardware vulnerabilities,” said Vladimir Katalov, who founded the Russian forensics company ElcomSoft, believing that GrayKey was used by federal authorities to crack Signal.

This vulnerability within the Signal app may not be a design flaw, but rather a deliberate backdoor to allow authorities to access private messages. The app was initially funded with backing from the deep state, after all.

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U.S. Government Contractor Embedded Software in more than 500 Apps to Track Phones of hundreds of millions of users!!!

A damning new WSJ report says a small U.S. government contractor embedded software in over 500 apps, tracking millions of people worldwide.

According to the report:

A small U.S. company with ties to the U.S. defense and intelligence communities has embedded its software in numerous mobile apps, allowing it to track the movements of hundreds of millions of mobile phones world-wide, according to interviews and documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

Anomaly Six LLC is the company in question, apparently boasting in marketing material that it was “able to draw location data from more than 500 mobile applications” from its own software development kit, embedded directly in some apps:

Anomaly Six says it embeds its own SDK in some apps, and in other cases gets location data from other partners.

The report says Anomaly Six is a federal contractor that provides global location data “to branches of the U.S. government and private-sector clients”. It told WSJ that it restricts the sale of U.S. mobile phone movement data only to the private sector, however.

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DHS Sued Over Its Social Media Surveillance Tactics

On paper at least, when a federal agency receives a FOIA request, it’s required to respond with either a denial or a so-called “grant of access” within the span of 20 business days. As the CDT points out in its suit, even if every requested document can’t be released in this time frame, at the very least the agency should notify which documents are on the table, which are being withheld, and give the party asking for these docs the right to appeal these decisions.

By that rationale, when the CDT filed its initial FOIA request in mid-August 2019, it should have heard a response sometime in mid-September. Instead, it alleges that it hasn’t gotten a substantial request to date. Even USCIS—the only agency to offer any sort of timeline for wrangling these requested documents—initially estimated it would take until the end of December. In the 13 months since its self-set deadline, the CDT alleges the agency hasn’t returned any of the records requested.

“The public deserves to know how the government scrutinizes social media data when deciding who can enter or stay in the country,” said CDT General Counsel Avery Gardiner in a statement. “Government surveillance has necessary limits, particularly constitutional ones.”

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Big Brother Is Spying On You In Thousands Of Ways, And All Of That Info Now Goes Into Centralized “Fusion Systems”

Big Brother is watching you.  Sadly, most people don’t realize how extensive the surveillance grid has now become.  As you drive to work or to school, license plate readers are systematically tracking where you travel.  In major cities, thousands of highly advanced security cameras (many equipped with facial recognition technology) are monitoring your every move.  If authorities detect that you are doing something suspicious, they can quickly pull up your criminal, financial and medical records.  Of course if they want to dig deeper, your phone and your computer are constantly producing a treasure trove of surveillance data.  Nothing that you do on either one of them is ever private.

In the past, compiling all of that information would take a great deal of time.  But now tech giants such as Microsoft, Motorola, Cisco and Palantir are selling “fusion systems” to governments all over the planet.  These “fusion systems” can instantly integrate surveillance data from thousands of different sources, and this has totally transformed how law enforcement is conducted in many of our largest cities.

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