Tag Archives: data

Government Can Track Cellphones Without Warrants

Mostly everyone has a cell phone.  A lot of smartphones have GPS capabilities.  This can be handy when you are looking for directions and you are lost.  However, what about being tracked?  For instance, unless you change your privacy settings, your photos will keep track of where you took the picture and what time.

The question the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals decided is whether the government needs a warrant to track you.  In In re: Application of the U.S.A. for Historical Cell Site Data (July 30, 2013 5th Cir. Ct.), the court ruled that obtaining cell-location information without a warrant  did not violate the Fourth Amendment.

When we think of the Fourth Amendment we remember that a search and seizure may require a warrant.  If there is no expectation of privacy, i.e. in a garbage bag we got rid of, then the government wouldn’t need a warrant.  However, if we have an expectation of privacy, i.e. to enter your house, then the government must have a warrant.

An expectation of privacy usually is the crux of a search and seizure case.  Here, the ACLU argued that people have a reasonable expectation of privacy when they are being tracked for a long period of time and the data gathered is collected in great detail.

In this case, this argument was not discussed by the court.

Why would this not be discussed?  The Fourth Amendment deals with government actions.  In other words,  the seizure or search has to be collected by the government.  In a similar case, the Supreme Court had decided that the government must obtain a warrant if it wants to install a GPS tracking device.  See United States v. Jones (2012).

However, this case was found to be different.  The reason for this is because the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals found that the information was collected by a third-party, i.e. the cell phone carrier.  The court explained,

Where a third party collects information in the first instance for its own purposes, the Government claims that it can obtain this information later with a [section] 2703(d) order, just as it can subpoena other records of a private entity.  We agree.

Id. (citations omitted).

Here, the government was not installing a GPS tracking device.  The Government was accessing a business record owned by carriers.  The court stated:

… cell site information is clearly a business record.  The cell service provider collects and stores historical cell site data for its own business purposes, perhaps to monitor or optimize service on its network or to accurately bill its customers for the segments of its network that they use.   The Government does not require service providers to record this information or store it.  The providers control what they record and how long these records are retained.

Consequently, the court found that the Government did not need a warrant.

via Cops Can Track Cellphones Without Warrants, Appeals Court Rules | Threat Level | Wired.com.

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Facebook is collecting your data — 500 terabytes a day

With more than 950 million users, Facebook is collecting a lot of data. Every time you click a notification, visit a page, upload a photo, or check out a friend’s link, you’re generating data for the company to track. Multiply that by 950 million people, who spend on average more than 6.5 hours on the site every month, and you have a lot of information to deal with.

Here are some of the stats the company provided Wednesday to demonstrate just how big Facebook’s data really is:

  • 2.5 billion content items shared per day (status updates + wall posts + photos + videos + comments)
  • 2.7 billion Likes per day
  • 300 million photos uploaded per day
  • 100+ petabytes of disk space in one of FB’s largest Hadoop (HDFS) clusters
  • 105 terabytes of data scanned via Hive, Facebook’s Hadoop query language, every 30 minutes
  • 70,000 queries executed on these databases per day
  • 500+terabytes of new data ingested into the databases every day

“If you aren’t taking advantage of big data, then you don’t have big data, you have just a pile of data,” said Jay Parikh, VP of infrastructure at Facebook on Wednesday. “Everything is interesting to us.”

Parikh said the company is constantly trying to figure out how to better analyze and make sense of the data, including doing extensive A/B testing on all potential updates to the site, and making sure it responds in real time to user input.

“We’re growing fast, but everyone else is growing faster,” he said.

via Facebook is collecting your data — 500 terabytes a day — Data | GigaOM.

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Ethics and Cloud Computing

I came across this post regarding ethics and the use of cloud computing by attorneys.  The post is as follows:

The Massachusetts Bar Association has issued an ethics opinion concluding that lawyers may use cloud services to store and synchronize digital files containing client information, provided the lawyer takes reasonable measures to ensure that the service’s terms of use and data-privacy policies are compatible with the lawyer’s professional obligations. However, lawyers should not use cloud services for clients who expressly request that their documents not be stored online and lawyers should not store “particularly sensitive” information in the cloud without first obtaining the client’s express consent, the opinion says.

MBA Ethics Opinion 12-03 was drafted by the MBA’s Committee on Professional Ethics and approved by the association’s House of Delegates on May 17, 2012. The MBA is not the official lawyer-discipline board in the state, so its ethics opinions are advisory only.

Even so, the MBA’s opinion adds to the growing and unanimous list of lawyer-ethics panels that have concluded that lawyers may ethically use cloud applications and services, provided they take reasonable precautions to protect the confidentiality and security of the data. (See our earlier post: Two New Legal Ethics Opinions Suggest Clear Skies Ahead for Cloud Computing.)

This brings to 11 the number of states that have ruled on the ethics of cloud computing. In addition to Mass., the other opinions are:

Notably, all of these states agree that the use of cloud computing is ethical.

via Mass. Joins Other States in Ruling that Cloud Computing is Ethical for Lawyers.

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Federal Appeals Court Upholds Disclosure of Cell Phone Tracking Data

The D.C. Circuit sided against the Justice Department on Tuesday in upholding the public release of information about court cases in which authorities used cell phone location data to track criminal suspects, saying the disclosure of such information is of significant public interest.

via Federal Appeals Court Upholds Disclosure of Cell Phone Tracking Data.

 

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