A warrant is needed for phone locations–Lawfare

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Powerful piece by Susan Landau on why police should be required to have a warrant to access a phone’s location data (the subject of a current Supreme Court case). I’ve previously discussed this issue here.

In case you don’t know Landau’s work:

Susan Landau is Bridge Professor in the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and the School of Engineering, Department of Computer Science, Tufts University and Visiting Professor of Computer Science, University College London. Landau works at the intersection of cybersecurity, national security, law, and policy. Her new book, “Listening In: Cybersecurity in an Insecure Age,” will be published by Yale University Press in fall 2017; Landau is also the author of “Surveillance or Security? The Risks Posed by New Wiretapping Technologies,” (MIT Press, 2011s) and “Privacy on the Line: the Politics of Wiretapping and Encryption,” co-authored with Whitfield Diffie (MIT Press, 1998). Landau was an early voice in the argument that law-enforcement requirements for embedding surveillance within communications infrastructures created long-term national-security risks, and has testified to Congress and frequently briefed US and European policymakers on encryption, surveillance, and cybersecurity issues. Landau has been a Senior Staff Privacy Analyst at Google, a Distinguished Engineer at Sun Microsystems, and a faculty member at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, the University of Massachusetts and Wesleyan University. She has served on the National Academies Computer Science and Telecommunications Board (2010-2016), the National Science Foundation Computer and Information Advisory Board (2010-2013), the Information Security and Privacy Advisory Board (2002-2008), as an Associate Editor-in-Chief on IEEE Security and Privacy, section board member on the Communications of the ACM, and associate editor at the Notices of the American Mathematical Society. A 2015 inductee in the Cybersecurity Hall of Fame and a 2012 Guggenheim fellow, Landau was a 2010-2011 fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study and the recipient of the 2008 Women of Vision Social Impact Award. She is also a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and of the Association for Computing Machinery. She received her B.A. from Princeton, her M.S. from Cornell, and her Ph.D. from MIT.

Wow.

The amicus brief she and her colleagues filed presents arguments that are very relevant to issues we study in geography, especially digital geography and political geography:

  1. “The technology increasingly provides extremely detailed information, enabling the location of a user not just in a building, but even on a particular floor.”
  2. “The level of precision of that location information is largely not understood by the users”
  3. “CSLI is extraordinarily revealing of a person’s interests and activities; it’s remarkably privacy invasive.”

In some ways these are all ramifications of the same issue: the specially sensitive nature of geolocational information. It’s why geographers argue that geolocational information is the most privacy-intrusive information there is. There have been several attempts to pass laws requiring locational warrants.

The amicus brief is here.

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