All Spying All the Time

Creators Syndicate

During this summer of madness in Portland, Oregon, and sadness over COVID-19, two below-the-radar events occurred implicating the insatiable appetite of the United States government to spy on everyone in America. Regular readers of this column know that the feds have been wearing away at our privacy rights using a multitude of means. Yet, these two below-the-fold events this summer have caught the feds flatfooted.

Here is the backstory.

After the calamity of Watergate, Congress investigated the nature and extent of FBI and CIA spying on Americans as ordered by President Richard Nixon. A Senate committee headed by the late Sen. Frank Church, D-Idaho, in 1975 made such startling revelations of warrantless and unlawful spying on Americans pursuant to presidential whims — going back to FDR — that it offered legislation to provide judicial oversight.

The legislation is the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978. It established the FISA Court, with a rotating membership of federal district court judges appointed to it by the chief justice.

FISA is profoundly unconstitutional because it authorizes the judges on the FISA Court to issue search warrants using a lesser standard of proof than what the Constitution requires. The Fourth Amendment requires proof of the likelihood of evidence of crimes in the place to be searched as a precondition for the issuance of search warrants, and it requires specification of the place to be searched or the person or thing to be seized.…

How Your Phone Is Used to Track You, and What You Can Do About It

The New York Times

As researchers and journalists try to understand how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting people’s behavior, they have repeatedly relied on location information from smartphones. The data allows for an expansive look at the movements of millions of people, but it raises troublesome questions about privacy.

In several articles, The New York Times has used location data provided by a company called Cuebiq, which analyzes data for advertisers and marketers. This data comes from smartphone users who have agreed to share their locations with certain apps, such as ones that provide weather alerts or information on local gas stations. Cuebiq helps app makers use technology like GPS to determine the location of people’s phones, and in turn some of the app makers provide data to Cuebiq for it to analyze.

It can be difficult for people to keep track of whether and how their data is being gathered. Android-based devices and iPhones both require apps to ask users to enable location services before collecting the information, but the explanations people see when prompted to give permission are often incomplete or misleading. An app may tell users that granting access to their location will help them get weather alerts, but not mention that the data will be sold.…