Federal Judge Lucy Koh rules 4th Amendment requires warrant to track your cell phone

The EFF has published a ruling by Federal District Court Judge Lucy Koh that affirmatively and clearly blocks the collection of cell site location information (so-called “CSLI”) by the Federal government without a warrant. Koh also concluded that a warrant to collect such information can only be granted if the information provided by the target to the cell company was voluntary.  And, importantly, she finds the automatic collection of such information by the telecommunications providers does constitute a voluntary transfer of data.

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A potentially big ruling came out of the courtroom of Judge Lucy Koh yesterday, in which she affirmed a magistrate judge’s decision to tell the government to get a warrant if it wants to obtain historical location info about certain “target” mobile phones (officially known as “Cell Site Location Info” — or CSLI). The government sought to use a provision of the Stored Communications Act (a part of ECPA, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act) to demand this info without a warrant — using a much lower standard: “specific and articulable facts” rather than the all important “probable cause.” Judge Koh says that’s doesn’t pass 4th Amendment muster, relying heavily on the important Supreme Court rulings in the Jones case, involving attaching a GPS device to a car, and the Riley case about searching mobile phones.

Based on the preceding U.S. Supreme Court cases, the following principles are manifest: (1) an individual’s expectation of privacy is at its pinnacle when government surveillance intrudes on the home; (2) long-term electronic surveillance by the government implicates an individual’s expectation of privacy; and (3) location data generated by cell phones, which are ubiquitous in this day and age, can reveal a wealth of private information about an individual. Applying those principles to the information sought here by the government, the Court finds that individuals have an expectation of privacy in the historical CSLI associated with their cell phones, and that such an expectation is one that society is willing to recognize as reasonable.

This is very big news and it fully supports Fourth Amendment rights under the constitution. Of course, it is a District Court opinion, but it is a strong and well-analyzed result.

Attack on end-to-end encryption

The Intercept is reporting that the LawFare blog, which generally favors the interests of the national security agencies, has threatened that Apple could be found liable for providing material support to terrorists if Apple persists in its program of end-to-end encryption.

Benjamin Wittes, editor-in-chief of the LawFare blog, suggested that Apple could in fact face that liability if it continued to provide encryption services to a suspected terrorist. He noted that the post was in response to an idea raised by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., in a hearing earlier this month.

“In the facts we considered,” wrote Wittes and his co-author, Harvard law student Zoe Bedell, “a court might — believe it or not — consider Apple as having violated the criminal prohibition against material support for terrorism.”

* * *

Within minutes of the Lawfare post going up, privacy advocates and technologists expressed outrage: Chris Soghoian, principal technologist for the American Civil Liberties Union, called it a continuation in Wittes’ “brain-dead jihad against encryption,” while Jake Laperruque, a fellow at the Center for Democracy and Technology, wrote that Wittes’ post “equates selling a phone that’s secure from hackers with giving money to terrorists.”

Apple and Google should hold strong on their deployment of unbreakable encryption. Privacy is a right, and one that must be defended to preserve human dignity.

Trump still ahead in GOP race

Donald Trump is still ahead in the race for the COP nomination next summer. Check out these details from the most recent Quinnipiac University National poll.

With 20 percent of Republican voters, Donald Trump is the clear leader in the crowded Republican presidential primary field, but he trails any of three leading Democratic contenders by wide margins in general election matchups, according to a Quinnipiac University National poll released today.

Trump’s 20 percent is the largest tally for a Republican contender in any national poll by the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University. Behind Trump are Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker with 13 percent and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush with 10 percent. No other Republican tops 6 percent and 12 percent are undecided.

Trump also tops the “no way” list as 30 percent of Republican voters say they would definitely not support him. New Jersey Gov. Christopher Christie is next at 15 percent with Bush at 14 percent.

By the way, Trump leads Jeb Bush 26 to 20% . . . in Florida.

More info on the rest of the field can be found here.

Apple quote of the day

With the introduction of Apple Music, Apple confusingly introduced a confusing service backed by the iTunes Store that’s confusingly integrated into iTunes and the iOS Music app (don’t even get me started on that) and partially, maybe, mostly replaces the also very confusing and historically unreliable iTunes Match.

So iTunes is a toxic hellstew of technical cruft and a toxic hellstew of UI design, in the middle of a transition between two partly redundant cloud services, both of which are confusing and vague to most people about which songs of theirs are in the cloud, which are safe to delete, and which ones they actually have.

* * *

I have plenty of plausible theories on why iTunes didn’t get the iCloud Photos treatment — why Apple Music was bolted onto this ancient, crufty, legacy app instead of discontinuing iTunes, dropping its obsolete functions, and starting fresh with a new app and a CloudKit-based service. (Engineering resources, time to market, iPods, Windows, and people with slow internet connections.)

— Marco Arment

You should read the entire essay here.

As for myself, I signed up for Apple Music, but immediately discovered that I had no idea what the various options implemented. I quickly turned off Apple Music and I have no plans to go back, other than to cancel my three month “free” subscription to the service. I long ago subscribed to iTunes Match and as far as I can tell (with a very large music library) it continues to work correctly.

Sucks to be Fiat Chrysler (updated)

A week or so ago, some researchers hacked their way in to the technology functionality of recently manufactured Jeeps. They were able to control the vehicle, including disabling the brakes. As a result, Fiat Chrysler has now launched a major recall.

Via AP:

Fiat Chrysler has decided to recall about 1.4 million cars and trucks in the U.S. after two hackers were able to take control of a Jeep over the Internet.

The company will update software to insulate the vehicles from being remotely controlled. It also says in a statement that unauthorized remote manipulation of a vehicle is a criminal act.

The recall affects vehicles with 8.4-inch touchscreens including 2013 to 2015 Ram pickups and chassis cabs and Dodge Viper sports cars. Also covered are 2014 and 2015 Dodge Durango and Jeep Grand Cherokee and Cherokee SUVs, as well as the 2015 Chrysler 200 and 300, and the Dodge Charger and Challenger.

Fiat Chrysler says it also has taken network-level security measures to prevent hacking. Those measures require no customer action.

Check out this video showing the results of the hacking:

The fact is that more and more vehicles are jammed full of digital technology. And automobile manufacturers are at risk if they are unable to secure that technology. An example is the Tesla Model S. However, unlike Fiat Chrysler, which is sending out USB sticks to their purchasers, the Model S is designed to support software upgrades via wi-fi and 3G with a simple push from the manufacturer. Hopefully, Tesla Motors can stay ahead of any bugs in their software.

Update: The New York Times has additional detail on the negotiations between Fiat Chrysler and NHTSA regarding the recall.

When the call came to officials at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, they knew they had a problem they had never faced but had long feared.

On the line was Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, with news that two technology researchers had hacked wirelessly into a Jeep Cherokee, through its dashboard connectivity system. They had managed to gain control of not just features like the radio and air-conditioning, but the actual functions of the car: the engine, the brakes and the steering.

That revelation set in motion a nine-day flurry of activity by the automaker and the safety agency that culminated Friday in a sweeping recall of 1.4 million vehicles.

“Launching a recall is the right step to protect Fiat Chrysler’s customers, and it sets an important precedent for how N.H.T.S.A. and the industry will respond to cybersecurity vulnerabilities,” said Mark R. Rosekind, the agency’s administrator.

Who could have possibly seen this coming?

The Pew Research Center is out with the results of a new poll that shows a substantial drop in the favorability rating of the Republican Party.

The Republican Party’s image has grown more negative over the first half of this year. Currently, 32% have a favorable impression of the Republican Party, while 60% have an unfavorable view. Favorable views of the GOP have fallen nine percentage points since January. The Democratic Party continues to have mixed ratings (48% favorable, 47% unfavorable).

The Democratic Party has often held an edge over the GOP in favorability in recent years, but its advantage had narrowed following the Republicans’ midterm victory last fall. Today, the gap is as wide as it has been in more than two years.

Republicans, in particular, are now more critical of their own party than they were a few months ago. About two-thirds (68%) express a favorable opinion of their party, the lowest share in more than two years. Six months ago, 86% of Republicans viewed the GOP positively.



The GOP, with the help from the Tea Partiers and Donald Trump, are going to have to face the party “crazies,” as John McCain calls them.

The New York Times and anonymity

Glenn Greenwald, writing at The Intercept, highlights the typical New York Times behavior of providing anonymity to government officials and then publishing their dubious claims. Think Judy Miller, during the run up to the war in Iraq.

Greenwald points out just the most recent behavior by the newspaper of record™.

Let’s look at an illustrative example from yesterday to see how this toxic process works. The New York Times published an article about ISIS by Eric Schmitt and Ben Hubbard based entirely and exclusively on unproven claims from officials of the U.S. government and its allies, to whom they (needless to say) granted anonymity. The entire article reads exactly like an official press release: paragraph after paragraph does nothing other than summarize the claims of anonymous officials, without an iota of questioning, skepticism, scrutiny or doubt.

Among the assertions mindlessly repeated by the Paper of Record from their beloved anonymous officials is this one:

Leave to the side the banal journalistic malpractice of uncritically parroting the self-serving claims of anonymous officials, supposedly what the paper is so horrified at Judy Miller for having done. Also leave to the side the fact that the U.S. government has been anonymously making these Helping-The-Enemy claims not just about Snowden but all whistleblowers for decades, back to Daniel Ellsberg if not earlier. Let’s instead focus on this: the claim itself, on the merits, is monumentally stupid on multiple levels: self-evidently so.

To begin with, The Terrorists™ have been using couriers and encryption for many, many years before anyone knew the name “Edward Snowden.” Last August, after NPR uncritically laundered claims that Snowden revelations had helped The Terrorists™, we reported on a 45-page document which the UK Government calls “the Jihadist Handbook” written by and distributed among extremist groups that describes in sophisticated detail the encryption technologies, SIM card-switching tactics and other methods they use to circumvent U.S. surveillance. Even these 2002/2003 methods were so sophisticated that they actually mirror GCHQ’s own operational security methods for protecting their communications.

* * *

This “Jihadist Handbook” was written in 2002 or 2003: more than a full decade before any Snowden revelations. Indisputably, terrorists have known for a very long time that the U.S. government and its allies are trying to intercept their communications, and have long used encryption and other means to prevent that.

The New York Times‘ claim that ISIS learned to use couriers as a result of the Snowden revelations is almost a form of self-mockery.

So, once again, a great job by the New York Times. Despite its claims, it consistently publishes as fact material provided by unnamed officials. That is no way to run a paper.

There is more coverage overage over at TechDirt.

Question of the day

Writing at The Intercept, Glenn Greenwald asks a very interesting question. After the fatal attacks on two military locations in Chattanooga two days ago, officials quickly characterized the shootings as a “terrorist” attack. Greenwald wonders whether that can be the correct interpretation of the attack, given that the country is at war and the shootings were attacks on military targets.


In common usage (as opposed to legal definitions), “terrorism” typically connotes, if not denotes, “violence against civilians.” If you ask most people why they regard the 9/11 attack as so singularly atrocious, you will likely hear that it was because the violence was aimed indiscriminately at civilians and at civilian targets. If you ask them to distinguish why they regard civilian-killing U.S. violence as legitimate and justified but regard the violence aimed at the U.S. as the opposite (“terrorism”), they’ll likely claim that the U.S. only kills civilians by accident, not on purpose. Whether one is targeting civilian versus military sites is a central aspect to how we talk about the justifiability of violence and what is and is not “terrorism.”

But increasingly in the West, violent attacks are aimed at purely military targets, yet are still being called “terrorism.” To this day, many people are indignant that Nidal Hasan was not formally charged with “terrorism” for his attack on the U.S. military base in Fort Hood, Texas (though he was widely called a “terrorist” by U.S. media reports). Last October in Canada — weeks after the government announced it would bomb Iraq against ISIS — a Muslim man waited for hours in his car in a parking lot until he saw two Canadian soldiers in uniform, and then ran them over, killing one; that was universally denounced as “terrorism” despite his obvious targeting of soldiers. Omar Khadr was sent to Guantanamo as a teenager and branded a “terrorist” for killing a U.S. soldier fighting the war in Afghanistan, during a firefight. One of the most notorious “terrorism” prosecutions in the U.S. — just brilliantly dissected by my colleague Murtaza Hussain — involved an alleged plot to attack the military base at Fort Dix. Trumpeted terror arrests in the U.S. now often involve plots against military rather than civilian targets. The 9/11 attack itself targeted the Pentagon in addition to the World Trade Center.

Something to think about…

IMF calls foul on European rescue for Greece

This is fascinating. Apparently, the International Monetary Fund has told Europe that it will not participate in any planned program for Greek rescue unless it includes very substantial write-offs of Greek debt.

Via The New York Times:

The International Monetary Fund threatened to withdraw support for Greece’s bailout on Tuesday unless European leaders agree to substantial debt relief, an immediate challenge to the region’s plan to rescue the country.

The aggressive stance sets up a standoff with Germany and other eurozone creditors, which have been reluctant to provide additional debt relief. The I.M.F role is considered crucial for any bailout, not only to provide funding but also to supervise Greece’s compliance with the terms.

A new rescue program for Greece “would have to meet our criteria,” a senior I.M.F. official told reporters on Tuesday, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “One of those criteria is debt sustainability.”

Debt relief has been a contentious issue in the negotiations over the Greek bailout.

Athens has pushed aggressively for creditors to write down the country’s debt, which now exceeds €300 billion. Without it, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has argued the debt will remain a heavy weight on Greece’s troubled economy.

But Germany and other countries, including the Netherlands and Finland, are loath to grant Greece easier terms, which are a tough sell to their own voters. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has ruled out a “classic haircut” on Greece’s debt.

The I.M.F. is now firmly siding with Greece on the issue. In a reportreleased publicly on Tuesday, the fund proposed that creditors let Athens write off part of its huge eurozone debt or at least make no payments for 30 years.

Writing elsewhere in the Times, Josh Barron writes:

It reads like a dry, 1,184-word memorandum about fiscal projections. But the International Monetary Fund’s memo on Greek debt sustainability, explaining why the I.M.F. cannot participate in a new bailout program unless other European countries agree to huge debt relief for Greece, has provided the “Emperor Has No Clothes” moment of the Greek crisis, one that may finally force eurozone members to either move closer to fiscal union or break up.

The I.M.F. memo amounts to an admission that the eurozone cannot work in its current form. It lays out three options for achieving Greek debt sustainability, all of which are tantamount to a fiscal union, an arrangement through which wealthier countries would make payments to support the Greek economy. Not coincidentally, this is the solution many economists have been telling European officials is the only way to save the euro — and which northern European countries have been resisting because it is so costly.

It seems to me that Europe is now backed into a corner. Either they pay up or Greece will simply have to leave the Euro in the dust of history.