back to article America wakes up to the surveillance society

Civil liberties groups in the US are demanding that the Department of Justice cough details of its use of mobile phone tracking - particularly how often it's done so without probable cause of a crime being committed. A federal court action has been filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Electronic Frontier …


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  1. volsano

    it's a two-edged aphorism

    Equally, if the DOJ have nothing to hide they have nothing to fear.

    So out with the records already, guys.

  2. shaun

    "trust in a benevolent DoJ"

    ther's an oxymoron there somewhere but i can't quite put my finger on it.....

  3. Chris Green

    J.Edgar Anyone?

    Hoover is alleged to have done similar things in past times, including bugging Presidents and other political leaders. History suggests that over zealous and perhaps puritanical use of such information, allows those that have it, to attack ANY individual that they dislike or disagree with.

    Trusting to the 'if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear' scenario does not work, because EVERYONE has done SOMETHING that others will find inappropriate. Just look at religions and how they condemn or attack other religions that don't follow their particular truth.

    It's a position that's ripe for abuse, blackmail and intimidation.

    Sure, it may help one terror case one day, but when idle hands have access, you can bet they will find a use for that information.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    RIPA is a *bad* thing.

    First problem with RIPA, it's authorized by a senior police officer, not a judge. The senior police officer is not impartial. When you get bad service from Dixons and speak to the supervisor, is the supervisor impartial? No way! So this is a faux check, not a real check.

    Second problem is THEY PAY FOR THE INFORMATION, that makes it commerce, buying information becomes a market and selling that information a profit center. Don't tell me it costs a lot to retrieve that info, yet tracking services can process it dirt cheap... it means the police are overpaying and the telecoms companies making a profit on the service.

    If you're making a profit, the SPOC has no motive to properly screen or challenge the requests and every reason to comply and encourage requests.

    And of course the secrecy problem, it's important enough to keep secret, but not important enough for a court order??? I don't think so! It's just yet another huge area for abuse. The secrecy requirement should have an independent judicial check associated with it, otherwise it should be removed. The person should be informed and have the right to challenge.

    "Computer World spoke to the DOJ on the matter, and received the usual "if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear" line, highlighting how important phone records can be in tracing children and serial murderers - but not terrorists, this time, so missing a trick there."

    So what are the DOJ hiding?

  5. Dan

    nothing to hide, nothing to fear

    This assumes that only those who have committed a crime should value or desire privacy. Are the authorities *really* suggesting that privacy is useless to law-abiding people?

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If you have nothing to hide

    then you don't mind Bin Laden getting a manilla envelope detailing all the things you do that he doesn't like, where you work, where you shop and your daily routine.

    Everyone knows he has people in law enforcement agencies but if you have nothing to hide from him you have nothing to fear from him right?

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Bin Laden?

    Wasn't he some puppet made up by the us government and played by the guys who used to do spitting image?

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "In the UK the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act sets out detailed rules for how much information the police can get, and how they get it."

    Everything and whenever they want.

    That must be the shortest bit of legislation ever written.

  9. Mark

    RE: Bin Laden?

    Well he and his family are BIG friends of the Bush family. He also didn't get along with Saddam Hussein (which makes joining 11/9 with Saddam particularly insane).

    His family also got out of the US on a special dispensation flight after 11/9 so they could get back home without falling foul of the new regulations on flight.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Telecoms immunity

    There isn't any need for public authorities to be held accountable - soon telecomms corporations will spy on US citizens mobile phone records and perform deep packet inspection using quantum computers.

    Oh, and they'll get all our data too, either handed to them by our use of US .com sites or by the EU or UK handing over our data.

    As for who is watching the watchman...Wikileaks.

  11. Chris C

    Wait for it...

    "Are the authorities *really* suggesting that privacy is useless to law-abiding people?" -- in a word, yes. The US (and UK) government hopes if it's done slow enough, the sheeple won't realize the country is become a surveillance and control state as in 1984. The only "privacy" you should be allowed is the forced wearing of clothing (can't be showing skin, y'know), and that will be of specified uniforms, likely lycra or spandex so the powers-that-be can easily see if we're trying to hide anything.

    While I applaud the ACLU and EFF for sticking to their principles, this has no chance of succeeding. The government will simply pull the "State Secrets" / "National Security" line and get the case squashed. The US government (at least the current administration) has shown in no uncertain terms that it does not care about laws or Constitutional rights. Those only come into play when it benefits the government. When they becomes inconvenient, it's best just to overlook them.

  12. Anonymous Coward

    there's only one way

    to stop the snooping (well, besides a whole new government). Pull the battery out of your cell except when YOU make a call to someone. Kind of inconvenient for getting calls, but they can only track where you are when you actually made the call then.

  13. Anonymous Coward

    July 4th 1776

    Has anyone read the declaration of independence lately, specifically the part about why the colonists decided it was good to cut all ties with britian? This should be required reading for DOJ positions...

  14. kain preacher

    Chris C

    I'm hoping(or hallucinating) that the next election will get a president that wont use the Constitution as toilet paper. This admin reminds of a episode of Sliders. The one they buried the existence of the constitution. and possession of it was capitol offense .

  15. Kevin Kitts

    Actually, two ways...

    and mine's cheaper. I don't have a cell phone. My lack of phone-ness saves me 2/3 of a tank of gas a week.

    However, gas prices are so expensive that if they had mass transit, they'd be able to track me that way instead. Of course, our US government would never think of forcibly raising the gas prices so most people would be forced to use (government-monitored) mass transit. After all, no one needs to know where every American is, every moment of the day, do they? And they wouldn't need to use such information to figure out who are American citizens and who aren't (by absence of tracking information), would they? And they would never, ever centralize that information in a supercomputer with a huge database, and an indexing service like Google, would they? And they'd never dream of creating a computer capable of assigning danger quotients to individuals, would they?

    And of course, they'd never think that such a program has everything it needs to get into every net-aware device in the world, enough processing power to become an artificial intelligence, and everything it needs to judge whether any human is good or bad. And also that our military spy-bots and kill-bots are already hooked into that net.

    They really don't realize how close to destruction the human race is, do they? And yet, they want to keep bringing it to us.

    Get it straight, you government people. If you can't trust your citizens, you can't live in peace with them. The logical end of the line of current US snoop policy is civil war - our government warring on its own people.

    If you don't believe me, imagine this:

    in 2009, an immigrant amnesty package gets passed (McCain and Obama both have plans for this). Most of the illegal immigrants become legal citizens. Most of them move to the southern border states. All of them are upset over the rise in gas prices cutting into their wages. They decide to use the state legislatures to make one or more of those states secede from the US, so they can form separate trade alliances with Mexico and other nations, taking the military bases with them.

    And by the way, it *doesn't* have to be immigrants doing this, either. It can be *any* combination of upset citizens, not just over the economy, but angry over loss of the Bill of Rights, too.

    Spying on cell-phones and other communications won't stop this scenario. And if this happens, where do the military (presumably nuclear) weapons in those states go? The US has to take them back, and the Second Civil War occurs. Nuclear weapon exchanges occur, as the secessionists adamantly refuse to come back for any reason. Sympathetic states elsewhere in the union decide to follow suit and come to their aid. And our country collapses as we nuke ourselves into oblivion, no bots or artificial intelligence necessary.

    Make no mistake, the US is a gunpowder keg right now. We *will* blow up long before Orwell's "1984" comes into being, if for no other reason than we're stressed enough to go to war already by our lack of an economy. The only problem is where that war impulse will be targeted - and Americans are looking at their own government now, because of all the failed policies and lack of the government protecting us (from corporations, common criminals and our own government; on terrorists they seem to be doing well). They don't understand that while people were apathetic 2 years ago, they're wide awake now. And they're looking for the bastards who caused this (not 9/11, but the tanking of our economy, which had *nothing* to do with Osama Bin Laden or 9/11). They also know that Bush and Cheney weren't the only ones to blame. Our whole government caused this, and people are starting to figure this out for themselves. Hopefully, the next administration will out every slimy thing the Bush Administration has done over the past 8 years. Then, people will know exactly where their anger should be focused, rather than on tearing down the whole system. Who knows what we'd end up with if that happened?

    And if you don't like the way the US is running things right now, imagine if we nuked ourselves out of the picture, and China became the leading superpower. How much security would any nation have in the face of China, unchecked?

    You can't stop terrorism by removing all of our freedoms. This self-destruction by tearing apart the freedoms that bind America together must stop.

  16. Pyros

    @Kevin Kitts

    If it was only that easy. You're preaching to, what, 1/5,000th of the US people total?

    I'm not saying that you should give up--far from it. But it takes a realist to know that at large the US people just want to tell the gov to leave them alone and get on with their lives.

    Apathic, really. *shakes head sadly*

  17. Jeffrey Nonken
    Black Helicopters

    Happy Independence Day, everybody!

    I'm sooo glad we're free of the tyranny that is Britain!

  18. Bruce Sinton
    Paris Hilton

    Attn. Mr. Kevin Kittts

    If what you say is true, I am glad I live thousands of miles away in the vast Pacific Ocean.

    However the apathy of the citizens of USA is what allows the Government skumbags to get away with all the spying etc.

    If they would get off their fat arses and vote during the elections it would prevent insane , warmongering ,murderous Christians like Bush getting elected.

    Only 40% of you vote,so you have only yourselves to blame.

    Paris for President- I think she believes in universal Love.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton


    Why should we vote when the choices are always provided for us with only the slightest difference in policy? Obama's statements this week prove that even he won't stop the war. It isn't really a democratic process if neither candidate speaks to and for the people. It's just another game we play to keep us distracted while our rights as citizens are being chipped away. Between Obama, endless celebrity worship, and the "Jesus phone," we are so wrapped up in useless preoccupation that we as a people cannot see what has been done to us, and how much America has disintegrated.

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