DOJ Uses Congressional Hearings About Protecting Mobile Privacy To Suggest Mobile Users Deserve Less Privacy

from the we-want-to-track-you dept

With all the reports lately about mobile devices tracking people's whereabouts, Congress (of course) sprung into action to hold grandstanding sessions hearings about protecting privacy on mobile devices. The official title of the hearing was: "Protecting Mobile Privacy: Your Smartphones, Tablets, Cell Phones and Your Privacy." So, it would be natural to expect that most people would talk about protecting privacy on mobile devices. However, one participant went in the opposite direction. Jason Weinstein, the deputy assistant attorney general for the criminal division, decided that the answer to protecting mobile privacy was to make sure there's less mobile privacy... as far as government snoops are concerned.

That is, he used the hearings to suggest a new Justice Department proposal that would require mobile phone operators to collect even more data from their customers than they do already. Yeah, this seems to be the exact opposite of the point of this particular discussion. Of course, our own Derek Kerton has been making this point repeatedly in our comments in the various discussions about Apple and Google tracking locations... and the government grandstanding about it: the government requires that mobile operators track much of this data. And what Weinstein was pitching was that they should track even more of it.

Of course, Weinstein uses the same old excuse for why everyone should have less privacy -- to make his job easier:
Weinstein said, "when this information is not stored, it may be impossible for law enforcement to collect essential evidence.... Many wireless providers do not retain records that would enable law enforcement to identify a suspect's smartphone based on the IP addresses collected by Web sites that the suspect visited."
But, of course, that totally misses the point. We have protections from government for a reason. There is no right for law enforcement's job to be easy. In fact, the rights go in the other direction. Individuals have a right of privacy from the government because we, as a society, supposedly decided that such rights were more important than an all-powerful government. That's what we thought the 4th Amendment was about, but I understand that's been excised from the document lately...
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Filed Under: congress, justice department, mobile data, privacy, tracking

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 May 2011 @ 6:54am

    Re: Another post about a sacred right

    Wah? The Florida law regarding regulating pediatricians (and other physicians) has nothing at all to do with the rights to own guns. The right in questiont here is the right of physicians to speak to their patients, not the rights of the patients (or anyone else) to do something.

    So it's not a question of whether Mike "likes" the rights that you do. I think you both probably "like" the 1st Amendment a whole lot.

    That said, Mike seems to like the 4th Amendment so much that he seems sometimes to start thinking the 4th Amendment is a blanket prohibition against the government's obtaining any information. Put it this way - if the courts were to decide the Mike prefers on issues like subscriber information and cell tower location data (i.e. that it requires a search warrant to obtain), then I'm not sure how he could object on 4th Amendment grounds to requiring providers to keep certain data for a certain amount of time.

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