back to article Slurping people's info without a warrant? That's OUR JOB, Google, Facebook et al tell US Supreme Court

A group of technology companies with a fondness for data collection have banded together to ask the US Supreme Court to stop the American government from snooping on cellphones without a warrant. In a friend-of-the-court brief filed on Monday, Airbnb, Apple, Cisco, Dropbox, Evernote, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Mozilla, Nest …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Philosophical Question

    Is there really any difference between Terms and Conditions freely entered into, and federal / state laws that one is born into?

    Ah yes, one is a grasping, acquisitive profit motivated company out to screw as much money as possible from you, whilst the other one isn't. Except through the tax code.

    Still, one cannot really accuse an organisation as broke as the US Federal Government of profiteering thanks to a monopoly position. Last time I looked at the US national debt it looked rather large...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Philosophical Question

      Day one's can't see the difference between a Sovereign State and a bunch of money-seeking short-term-thinker as corporations stakeholders are, is the day one's choose "consumership" over citizenship.

      I'd rather like a world without facebook than that.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Philosophical Question

      One you get to choose not to use. The other you can't (except by leaving the country).

    3. steelpillow Silver badge

      Re: Philosophical Question

      Always amazes me the vehemence with which the younger generation defend the fact of Dot Com - and even Organised Crime - slurping while rabidly anti their own democratically elected government from doing the same in order to protect them from said b*st*rds. When challenged, none has yet stayed calm enough to give me a reasoned answer, they just go mental at me. It's evidently about trust - an untrustworthy politician is just too immoral to even consider, while Google and the Mafia are *expected* to be untrustworthy and that somehow makes it okay.

      1. Astara

        Re: Philosophical Question

        ".com" et al, doesn't have the right to confiscate all your possessions w/o cause. Our government has assumed that right via property forfeiture laws. Furthermore, our government knows it is behaving against its "charter" (constitution), and goes to extensive lengths to HIDE its *illegal* and unauthorized activity through parallel construction ( -- where law enforcement hides the disallowed and illegal sources of information that were illegal for use in domestic law enforcement (i.e. discovered in broad searches for terrorist or spying activities).

        1. steelpillow Silver badge

          Re: Philosophical Question

          @ Astara: Let me get this right. It's okay for .coms and mafiosi to slurp your traffic because they have /no/ right to and no intention of cleaning up their act. But it is /not/ OK for government to do so because it /does/ have a right to and last year actually /did/ clean up its act?

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    dont know

    I do know I use lineageos on an old lg g3 without gapps and without any verizon spyware not because i worry about them sharing with the government but because i don't wish to share with liberal ran companies who install appflash or dtignite or google services that drain my batteries and who knows what awful other things..

    nope.. just plain vanilla lineageos with apk's downloaded elsewhere..

    1. Jonathan 27

      Re: dont know

      Make you never surf the web either, that's where they get most of the data.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: dont know

        duckduckgo.. i don't use tor. i have nothing to hide but i don't keep cookies and never accept 2nd party cookies.. really my web usage is a handful of news websites, cisco and an occasional looking up how to do something elsewhere. i don't use the internet at home. too many kids and real life things going on.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    On a related subject, does anyone know what the absolute minimum Google exposure it's possible to have on an Android phone wile still being able to access the internet? I denied permissions to all the Google stuff, and my phone won't let me access the net now....everything comes up as blocked

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Easy, factory reset the phone,opt out of Google services on first run, same in every other android phone ever produced... This will give you a google free android experience, but as soon you you try to run any Google app, it's time to accept TOS...

      We all know however, that's not what you want, you want to cherrypick which bits of Google you want, and which bits you don't. That's not how it works...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Thank you, I will try that. That is exactly what I want...Google the fuck out of my life and off my equipment. There's useful tools that I will be missing out on, but that's a price I consider worth it.

        1. bazza Silver badge

          That's all very well, but you'd better turn off caller ID forwarding on the phone calls you make. Call someone else's Android and Google are using caller ID to track who you're calling. And use cash in the shops. And if you email or call someone else who has an Android phone and you are in their contacts list, Google know who you are and where you live.

          It's basically impossible to avoid being profiled by Google.

          No, I don't like it either.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            That is TOTALLY untrue. If you don't accept the Google TOS, then NOTHING is sent to Google. This has been examined in detail by many many people trying to find things to cry foul about....

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              You share your contacts list with Google, Google now have all those contacts details. None of those people have given permission to Google to hold their details, the ones that you have given to Google.

  4. Tubz

    Oh my god, almost peed myself laughing at the tech companies own comment ..

    When customers transmit personal data to technology companies in the course of using digital products and services, they reasonably expect that data and the metadata generated alongside it to be securely stored and remain private as to the rest of the world"

    When has that ever stopped them from sniffing about our data to make quick buck, that's is just being hypercritical !

    1. Keef

      Just being hypercritical of your comment, I guess you meant hypocritical!

  5. ma1010

    It's all about the money

    These scumbag companies gather your data and SELL it to whoever will pay them. When doing a criminal investigation, the government doesn't pay for information. They subpoena it, and you give it up, or else. Answering subpoenas makes the slurpers no money at all, but they do incur costs in providing that information to the government. OF COURSE, the data slurpers want to raise the bar as high as possible on having to give out FREE information.

    On the other hand, they see nothing remotely wrong with tracking you 24/7 and selling anything they can learn about you to anyone else who is willing to pay.

    This has NOTHING to do with a defendant's rights. It just all about the money, as it always is when corporations get involved. Despite their bullshit posturing, these corporations have all the morality of a piranha-infested toilet bowl. Did you really think they cared about your rights in any way at all? If there is anyone who does believe that they care about you, please contact me, as I have this bridge I'd love to sell you, cheap!

  6. J.Smith

    Got your number

    They may have my number, but I've got their number, so we're even, I think.

  7. DagD

    I so want that cup!

    please tell me they actually exist for order!

    1. Alistair

      Re: I so want that cup!

      I'll take 6. Please.

      And stripping ghooghoul's crap off your phone will do you very little good on the location front. In a reasonable town/city setting, even without GPS the phone can frequently be placed in a 300ft radius as long as it has its GSM or LTE radio powered on.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        IT's not all bad (sic).

        Locally in Baton Rouge we have a murder case in the works based on phone location data - the local lads (at her husbands request) kidnapped a woman, drove her out to a remote area, killed and buried her. Their problem was that it was a remote area and their phones showed up at the burial location, and the cops found than at her house a few hours earlier.

        Without the phone data slurp they would probably have never even appeared on the radar.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: IT's not all bad (sic).

          Excusing it when it catches murderers (or terrorists, or pedophiles, or nazis...) means you excuse it for all crimes. Why not use your cell phone location data to see you were at point X at 3:00 and point Y at 5:00, and those points are 150 miles apart but the speed limit is only 65 mph on the interstate between those points. Here's your ticket in the mail!

          If they had some reason to suspect them, filed a subpeona to legally get their cell phone data, and it provided corroborating evidence, that's fine. But if they arrested those guys because they "looked suspicious", then gained access to their location data without a court order I'd prefer that evidence was thrown out of court. Otherwise you are basically saying that the government can track anyone everywhere they go, and the only way they can avoid it is to choose not to use the single most important piece of new technology to come around in the last few decades.

          If protecting my constitutional rights means some murderers get away, that's fine. A lot of criminals have got away scot free over the years because of the Constitution. If you want to catch them all you'll need to live in a place with a lot less freedom than we enjoy today. If you want to live there, don't fuck up the laws for me here. Find a country that already has those laws.

          1. Adam 52 Silver badge

            Re: IT's not all bad (sic).

            I think it's reasonable to say to the telcos, "there was a murder here between x and y, and a kidnap here between a and b, how big is the intersection of the two sets and if less than 100 please may we have the subscriber details?" That's targeted. Ish. What would be wrong would be "give me everyone who's ever been here".

            I seem to recall phone location evidence as been part of the suspected (acquitted on retrial) Omagh bombers prosecution case.

          2. Someone Else Silver badge
            Big Brother

            Re: IT's not all bad (sic).

            If you want to catch them all you'll need to live in a place with a lot less freedom than we enjoy today. If you want to live there, don't fuck up the laws for me here. Find a country that already has those laws.

            Trump's Amerikkka is accepting applications. Desperately.

  8. LDS Silver badge
    Big Brother

    They should at least be required to click "I agree."

    Soon it will be in birth certificates....

    1. Someone Else Silver badge

      Re: They should at least be required to click "I agree."

      How's a newborn gonna click?

  9. Adam 1

    > Slurping people's info without a warrant? That's OUR JOB, Google, Facebook et al tell US Supreme Court

    There is a fundamental difference between making an active decision to share information about yourself in exchange for a service you think you want* and being compelled to share such information with a government. I can decide not to use twitface if I don't think that trade-off is reasonable. I am not compelled to use it and they are not able to incarcerate me** or fine me***. The state however can demand my information from me or my service providers, arrest or fine me or apply some other form of punishment. As that power can be abused, we have separation of powers to limit what any arm can do. A warrant is simply the judicial arm agreeing with the police that the restrictions that should normally apply can be overridden in this specific case, with limitations (it's not a free for all). Again, this is to protect society from a rogue police chief. The fact that it limits their capabilities is not an oversight but a core design principle.

    *Irrespective about my view on whether it's think that you are making a wise choice.

    **Can't really comment on what is possible in THE LAND OF THE FREE.

    ***Any "fines" they can issue me are only possible because I have entered into a contract with them, so it is underwritten by a legal framework which the companies do not write (although see previous point (

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The problem with Facebook and Google is that they collect data on you whether or not you have signed up to their services.

      Facebook recognise and track faces in other people's photographs. Google use caller ID on other people's mobiles to log who you call, and of course scour their own databases to look your number up. Google are also aiming to track all credit card usage throughout the entire retail industry, via hashes of your credit card number.

      Ok, so so far so anonymous. But it only takes one identifying piece of info to slip through (someone else puts your name in their contacts list on their phone) and now Google know your email, name, who you call, your home and work address, etc. And at no point have you agreed to any of this. They've gone and done it without any preconditions permission from you. Same if someone puts a name to your face on one of their photographs (Facebook also having had a glance at their contacts lists).

      At least with a law someone who is at least vaguely influenced by oneself has themselves had some vague influence on that law (assuming it was passed into law after one was born).

  10. mrjohn

    So does this argument extend to not being filmed every time we walk down the street?

    Or being subject to facial recognition software in public & private spaces ( streets & stadiums)?

    Or having car number plates tracked?

    If internet connectivity is an extension of public space, I can't see how tracking data is any different.

  11. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "he provided that information to the phone company voluntarily"

    I will accept that I provide phone numbers I call to the phone company "voluntarily" the day someone can show me how to make a phone call without giving the phone company the number.

    I won't be holding my breath waiting.

  12. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "government disinterest in privacy"

    Disinterest or uninterest? Or interest but not in a good way?

  13. Fan of Mr. Obvious

    Eat your cake and have it too

    U.S. Government declares that cell phones are a necessity and as such gives them to those that cannot afford them. U.S. Government then declares that the data transmission of said cell phone is voluntary.

    WTF, pick ONE side.

  14. strum

    This is a specious argument. We may not approve of the behaviour of data-grabbers, but the Fourth Amendment never prohibited nosey neighbours, peering over your fence, or store-owners keeping track of receipts, or busybodies counting cars - all 'data-grabbing', in 18th century terms.

    The Fourth Amendment constrains government (and its agents).

    Stick to the question.

  15. davenewman

    Congress could vote to adopt the GDPR

    If all of the EU, Canada and other countries can have data protection laws, why not the USA?

    Ask Congress to pass a law similar to the GDPR and require both private companies and government agencies to stick to it. Then there won't be arguments trying to stretch contract law and the 4th amendment to cover data collection and use.

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