US Police need warrant to obtain WiFi location data, privacy activists argue

00:30  29 september  2020
00:30  29 september  2020 Source:   nbcnews.com

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The sharply divided justices ruled that police need a search warrant to obtain cellphone location data . The 5-4 decision imposes new limits on law enforcement's ability to get at the increasing amount of data that private companies amass in the modern technological age.

Privacy International obtained the figures through Freedom of Information requests to 47 forces, of The technology allows officers to extract location data , conversations on encrypted apps, call logs Privacy International said requiring a warrant , like those needed to search someone's home, would

Civil liberties and privacy advocates have taken the side of a convicted robber in Pennsylvania who says police abused their power by collecting data from a college WiFi network to tie him to the armed holdup of campus pot dealers.

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In legal documents filed Monday, the American Civil Liberties Union and the nonprofit Electronic Frontier Foundation sought to persuade the Pennsylvania Supreme Court that police at Moravian College in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, violated the U.S. Constitution when they failed to seek a warrant to obtain digital evidence in the form of campus WiFi traffic.

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In a major statement on privacy in the digital age, the Supreme Court ruled on Friday that the government generally needs a warrant to collect troves Now, police will have to receive a warrant issued by the court in order to obtain any smartphone data as it relates to the owner's location data .

Do police need a warrant based on probable cause before accessing cell phone location records from Today's historic Supreme Court cellphone tracking win will have a ripple effect for privacy . The ACLU argued that because cell phone location records offer a wealth of private details about

The case is a new front in the battle over the government’s expanding ability to use high-tech surveillance techniques to search for people near the scene of a crime and then document where those people have been.

Investigators asked the school’s information technology department to turn over a list of students who were logged on to the campus WiFi network in the dormitory where two masked men posing as campus police officers held up a pot dealer and his roommate at gunpoint around 2 a.m. on Feb. 2, 2017, taking $1,000 and a jar of marijuana.

That list included three people who did not live in the dorm: two women and Alkiohn Dunkins, a member of the college's football team. Dunkins denied being at the dorm, but a student who lived next door told police that Dunkins had bragged about the heist. Dunkins’ lawyer accused police of conducting an illegal search for the WiFi logs, but a judge allowed the logs to be used as evidence. Dunkins was convicted at trial in September 2018 and sentenced to five to 10 years in prison.

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The court said obtaining such data without a warrant from wireless carriers, as police routinely do Roberts stressed that the ruling did not resolve other hot-button digital privacy fights, including whether police need warrants to access real-time cellphone location information to track criminal suspects.

Many privacy activists , legal experts, and even companies argue that the ECPA, which was passed in 1986—long before the widespread use of It’s illegal for police to secretly listen to the phone calls of American citizens without a warrant . However, police officers don’t need the warrant to obtain

Another lawyer representing Dunkins appealed the conviction, arguing in part that the WiFi logs had been illegally obtained. Again, the argument failed.

This time, Dunkins is making the claim to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. And he is now backed by the American Civil Liberties Union’s national and Pennsylvania offices, as well as the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Those three activist groups submitted a joint “friend of the court” brief on Monday saying the ability to use WiFi logs to identify people in a particular place and track their movements “poses a grave threat to privacy and constitutes a sweeping expansion of government power.”

The groups compared the search in the Dunkins case to “a search of every house in an area of a town — simply on the chance that the suspect might be located inside one.” The police violated the privacy not only of Dunkins but of the two women, the groups said. “The same investigative technique can reveal everyone present at a political gathering, a mental health center, or an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting,” they continued.

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Cell Site Location Information [CSLI] can be clearly misused by Police and private detectives. Chairman Mao values his privacy over the convenience and other benefits of a cell phone, whereas The US Supreme Court is deciding a case that will establish whether the police need a warrant to

This week, they're debating if police should need to prove probable cause in order to get a warrant Gowdy is a bit more middle-ground here, suggesting the importance of privacy , but saying he thinks This debate could be better phrased as "Should police need a warrant to obtain information you've

The group’s entry into the Dunkins case is part of a wider campaign to broaden judges’ interpretations of a 2018 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that police must obtain a warrant before asking telecommunications companies for records showing when someone’s mobile phone pinged cell towers. The court found that the data required judicial oversight because it could be used to conduct “near perfect surveillance” of a person’s travels.

Privacy groups have cited that 2018 ruling, Carpenter v. United States, to try to persuade judges to require warrants for other types of electronic surveillance, including real-time cellphone tracking, automated license plate readers, data collected by cars and video cameras positioned outside people’s homes.

Dunkins’ lawyer, Michael Diamondstein, also submitted a brief Monday arguing that the WiFi data was illegally obtained, calling it "an example of George Orwell’s art becoming reality.”

Prosecutors in Northampton County, Pennsylvania, where Dunkins was convicted, have said that a warrant was not needed because the WiFi request applied narrowly to a campus network and because all students, including Dunkins, agreed to a policy that allowed the college to collect and disclose their usage data.

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It soon emerged that Securus was getting its location data second-hand through a company called 3Cinteractive, which in turn was reselling Lynch said that in those circumstances, there is a strong argument the government would need to get a warrant to access the data (even if the information

Police said using real-time location data from smartphones under six hours old was fine. The state of Massachusetts has enforced the requirement for police officers to obtain a warrant before The suspect was then tracked to a private home. In this case, law enforcement argued that it was

An appellate court agreed, saying Dunkins had no expectation of privacy in using the WiFi network.

Richard Pepper, first deputy district attorney at the Northampton County District Attorney’s Office, said his office did not expect the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to expand upon the Carpenter ruling to include a WiFi search.

While Dunkins may have agreed to terms of service for the campus network, the ACLU’s filing also underscored similar circumstances for anyone who connects to a municipal or other publicly accessible network.

"Those who rely on public WiFi networks for connectivity are at even greater risk of surveillance because they may have few other options for Internet connectivity,” the ACLU wrote in its brief to the court.

CORRECTION (Sept. 28, 2020, 5:03 p.m. ET): An earlier version of this story misattributed the quote stating that Dunkins “had no expectation of privacy in using the WiFi network." It was from the appellate ruling, not Richard Pepper, the first deputy district attorney at the Northampton County District Attorney’s Office.

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