A prominent private investigator operating out of New York and Texas has noted that anyone engaging in any large scale protest, is now subjected to scanning by drones that skim their personal information from their cell phones.
In a talk entited “Privacy is dead”, piSteven Rambam told an audience of hackers and privacy activists at HOPE 9 in New York recently that the authorities have the capability to extract real-time data on individuals by “surveying” their electronic devices, and do so as a matter of routine.
Rambam, who has conducted several thousand missing-person searches over almost three decades, claims that the practice is considered a “legitimate investigatory technique”, and that anyone who protested with the Occupy Wall Street movement would have been subjected to it.
“One of the biggest changes is the ability to track your physical location.” Rambam told the crowd.
“I’m sorry I came in at the end of the previous talk. I heard them talk about surveying cell phones with a drone, in a wide area — this is something that is done routinely now.” he added, referring to a previous discussion on government spying.
“I can tell you that everybody that attended an Occupy Wall Street protest, and didn’t turn their cell phone off, or put it — and sometimes even if they did — the identity of that cell phone has been logged, and everybody who was at that demonstration, whether they were arrested, not arrested, whether their photos were ID’d, whether an informant pointed them out, it’s known they were there anyway. This is routine.” Rambam noted.
“I can tell you that if you go into any police station right now, the first thing they do is tell you, ‘Oh I’m sorry you’re not allowed to bring a cell phone in there. We’ll hold it for you.’ Not a joke. And by the way it’s a legitimate investigatory technique.”
“Cell phones are now the little snitch in your pocket. Cell phones tell me where you are, what you do, who you talk to, everbody you associate with. Cell phone tells me [sic] intimate details of your life and character, including: Were you at a demonstration? Did you attend a mosque? Did you demonstrate in front of an abortion clinic? Did you get an abortion?” Rambam told the audience.
During the lecture, Rambam also noted that such police and government data collection techniques are “amateur” compared to big business.
“Where you work, what your salary is, your criminal history, all the lawsuits you’ve been involved in, real property…everything you’ve ever purchased, everywhere you’ve ever been…Your information is worth money.” Rambam noted.
“Your privacy today isn’t being invaded by big brother — it’s being invaded by big marketer,” he concluded.
The entire lecture can be viewed below:
Of course, the surveillance rabbit hole goes much deeper than just protests. Earlier this month, hacker group Antisec leaked what it says is evidence that the FBI is actively monitoring the communications of every American using an iPhone.
The hackers claim to have obtained detailed information on some 12 million iphone users, taken from an FBI agent’s laptop. The group released 1 million iOS device IDs to back up the claim.
The group’s statement noted:
During the second week of March 2012, a Dell Vostro notebook, used by Supervisor Special Agent Christopher K. Stangl from FBI Regional Cyber Action Team and New York FBI Office Evidence Response Team was breached using the AtomicReferenceArray vulnerability on Java, during the shell session some files were downloaded from his Desktop folder one of them with the name of ”NCFTA_iOS_devices_intel.csv” turned to be a list of 12,367,232 Apple iOS devices including Unique Device Identifiers (UDID), user names, name of device, type of device, Apple Push Notification Service tokens, zipcodes, cellphone numbers, addresses, etc. the personal details fields referring to people appears many times empty leaving the whole list incompleted on many parts. no other file on the same folder makes mention about this list or its purpose.
If it is genuine, and there is no reason to believe it is not, this case once again goes to show that whether it be mandatory Homeland security alerts, wirelessly disabling your communications on a whim, or secretly tracking you where ever you go, the rise of smart phones brings with it a huge threat to privacy and the rights of the individual.
Again, this is another case not of smart phones and technology in general being intrusive, but of the technology being co-opted and abused by those who could care less for the constitutional rights of free Americans.
Below is a recent video detailing how two security researchers discovered that Apple’s iPhone keeps track of a user’s location and saves that information to a file that is stored both on the device and on a user’s computer when they sync or back it up in iTunes.
The researchers, Pete Warden and Alasdair Allan, discovered the hidden file while collaborating on a potential data visualization project. “At first we weren’t sure how much data was there, but after we dug further and visualised the extracted data, it became clear that there was a scary amount of detail on our movements,” Warden told The Guardian.
As we reported at the time, the controversy was treated as a shocking revelation by the media, and yet since October 2001, the FCC has mandated that all wireless carriers track the location of their users down to within 50 feet.