If you needed any further evidence that it’s unwise to permit electronic surveillance to catch “terrorists”, USA Today has just provided it:
Dorner has been accused by police of the shooting deaths of three people, one of them a police officer and another the daughter of a former officer. […LAPD Police Chief Charlie] Beck said. “This is an act, and make no mistake about it, of domestic terrorism. This is a man who has targeted those who we entrust to protect the public. His actions cannot go unanswered.”
Dorner certainly seems to be guilty of multiple murders, and to have a beef with the LAPD over racist practices he witnessed as a serving police officer. But it seems that the chief of the nation’s second-largest police force has no goddamn clue what terrorism is.
Science Daily reports that one of the technological limitations on cellphones’ tracking capabilities is about to be lifted.
A research team led by Professor Dong-Soo Han of the Department of Computer Science at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology has developed a way of locating cellphones using their WiFi fingerprints to within 10 meters in indoor locations in cities.
The article is pretty gung-ho about the capabilities of this new technology, though they also report Professor Han as suggesting that “There seems to be many issues like privacy protection that has [sic] to be cleared away before commercializing this technology.”
Yes, Professor Han. That may be something of a concern.
In particular, may I ask, pretty please, that legislators considering bills to protect the privacy of cellphone users’ location data, bear in mind that this kind of indoor location detection has been shown to be possible? I give law enforcement oh, about five minutes after the commercial release of this technology before they start using it in investigations.
The obvious Fourth Amendment issue here is that the current rulings allowing law enforcement use of cellphone data tend to rely heavily on the fact that when you are outdoors, you are not generally held to have a reasonable expectation of privacy, and that your location is reasonably observable to members of the public. If cellphones become capable of tracking you indoors, where you do typically have a reasonable expectation of privacy, then judges will have to choose whether to weaken the Fourth Amendment further by not requiring a warrant for the seizure of cellphone data, even though it contains data that would be considered private, or to strengthen the Fourth Amendment in the light of cellphones’ increased capabilities by barring its use without a warrant. These are rough waters for any jurist, which is part of why we strongly support cellphone location privacy laws that unambiguously require law enforcement to obtain a warrant before being allowed to collect cellphone location data.
The research is reported as Hyunil Yang, Giwan Yoon, and Dongsoo Han, “Floor Accuracy Improvement of Wireless LAN based Large Scale Indoor Positioning”, IEEE MTT-S IMWS-IRFPT 2011, KAIST, Daejeon Korea, p.89-90 (2011).