Imagine you’re traveling on a roadway and you’re pulled over by a uniformed patrolman because your tail light is out. The patrolman demands you hand over your license, registration and mobile phone, which he then attaches to a device that copies all your information: photos, videos, address book contacts, call log, text messages, even your GPS tags.

A violation of your 4th Amendment right to privacy and protection from unreasonable search and seizure?

In Michigan, the State Police have been downloading information from cell phones of those they’ve detained or arrested using a device called the CelleBrite UFED. Within 90 seconds, it defeats your password and can grab info off 3,000 phone models, including the iPhone.

From the CelleBrite brochure: “Complete extraction of existing, hidden and deleted phone data, including call history, text messages, contacts, images and geotags. The Physical Analyzer allows visualization of both existing and deleted locations on Google Earth. In addition, location information from GPS devices and image geotags can be mapped on Google Maps.”

The ACLU has filed a Freedom of Information request asking the Michigan State Police to provide information about its use of the devices.

In response, the MSP has demanded the ACLU pay a processing fee of more than $500,000 and has denied violating the 4th Amendment, stating, “The MSP only uses the DEDs if a search warrant is obtained or if the person possessing the mobile device gives consent. The DEDs are not being used to extract citizens’ personal information during routine traffic stops.”

We’re keeping an eye on this one, along with developing technology that can either make our lives better or worse, depending on its usage. Like this Las Vegas police officer who is now charged with beating and arresting a citizen who, while standing in his own driveway, videotaped an arrest taking place in his neighborhood.

Recall also that it was the videotaped images of Rodney King being beaten by police that proved police brutality in a Los Angeles case 20 years ago.

Last February in Atlanta, the Police Department agreed it will not prevent people from recording police officers doing their job.

Never before in recorded history has man been able to track man with such pinpoint accuracy in real time … and keep records of it.

On the plus side, innovative technology exists to help adult children monitor elderly parents aging at home hundreds of miles away with sensors, cameras and video chat, giving them the ability to know when Mom or Dad gets out of bed, where they are inside their home (too long in the bathroom, for example), when and if they’ve taken their meds, turned on the stove and much more.

In the wrong hands, however, these capabilities can create a “Big Brother” world of oppression. Imagine a government with those capabilities, unconstrained by the chains of the Constitution?

Phone tag, you’re it – like it or not

Need more examples someone is watching you? That little smart phone with the dozens of apps that you’re carrying around is telling a tale on you. Google and Apple smart phones are tracking your every move and saving the data, sometimes for months at a time. The phones pinpoint your physical location using GPS coordinates and timestamps. The info is then saved to massive databases, building up a history of where you’ve been. Tied in with other info collected on you, your personal profile is sold – without your knowledge or consent – to third parties.

A report by the Associated Press states, “Location data is some of the most valuable information a mobile phone can provide, since it can tell advertisers not only where someone’s been, but also where they might be going – and what they might be inclined to buy when they get there.”

Map showing location data collected from an iPhone used in southwestern England. Photo credit, Guardian U.K.

Last week we learned that Apple’s iPhone collects the data and automatically downloads it into whatever computer you plug in to synch up.

A feature story in the Guardian U.K. reports that the downloaded file “contains the latitude and longitude of the phone’s recorded coordinates along with a timestamp, meaning that anyone who stole the phone or the computer could discover details about the owner’s movements using a simple program. For some phones, there could be almost a year’s worth of data stored, as the recording of data seems to have started with Apple’s iOS 4 update to the phone’s operating system, released in June 2010. ‘Apple has made it possible for almost anybody – a jealous spouse, a private detective – with access to your phone or computer to get detailed information about where you’ve been,’ said Pete Warden, one of the researchers.”

Is your iPad also spying on you? It is if you own an Apple’s 3G iPad. Is there a reason for that data to remain on your device after it’s been transmitted to Apple?

OK, this is scary. Technology that tracks your every move, call, click, web surfing record … and can be held against you. Yikes!

It’s not just Apple tracking you either. Here’s a TechcrunchTV clip telling you who’s watching you while you’re watching it. Meanwhile, Yahoo! decides it will hold your search data for an extra 15 months – Yahoo!

So is anyone in Congress doing anything to protect our Fourth Amendment rights? You might be surprised to find out.

Obama’s Facebook town hall: “not great”

“What a joke, Facebook! So glad you had this town hall for your employees. The Ask Question button is a joke!”

That comment left on one FB user’s page pretty much summed up the overall impression of President Obama’s much publicized Facebook town-hall meeting held last week at the social networking site’s Palo Alto, California, headquarters. No word yet if Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg was so delighted with the president’s presence that the negative backlash went unnoticed.

Obama has 19.3 million Facebook followers. But he took only eight questions during the streamed online event, most of them from Facebook employees. The questions appeared to be vetted for “inappropriate topics,” such as Obama’s ineligibility issues, the military and the three wars in which they’re engaged.

“Despite the promise that President first Facebook town hall would open a new level of two-way communication with his constituents, social-networking technology didn’t add much to the conversation,” reported the San Francisco Chronicle. Ouch!

But no matter. It was well worth the negative publicity. While he was in town, Obama picked up an estimated $2.5 million in contributions from tech elites.

“Seventy or so CEO and finance types congregated at the San Francisco home of Salesforce founder and CEO Marc Benioff, paying $35,000 each for a steak dinner with the president, plus a photo opp,” wrote Michael Arrington in a not-so-complimentary piece at TechCrunch.

“What’s fascinating to me is how eagerly all these fabulously wealthy men and women look forward to another term for Obama,” writes Arrington. “He’s going to tax these people until they cry, and then tax them some more.

“And then I realize, these people aren’t really getting taxed,” he concludes. “That’s because they’ve already made their money, and it sits safe and untaxed in whatever investments they’ve chosen. That’s because there’s no wealth tax in the U.S. like some European countries have implemented. All that gets taxed is the income and the capital gain. The big wealth sits untouched.”

I’ve reported several times in this column that Facebook and Google are cozy with Obama and his administration. Just how cozy are they and why? Take a look at how much they’re investing in lobbying efforts to smooth the road ahead with Obama regulators and certain members of Congress.

Facebook increased its outlays for lobbying efforts by 400 percent in the first quarter of this year according to the U. S. Senate’s lobbying database.

Here’s a clue as to why, provided by Leena Rao at TechCrunch: “Policy areas of focus for Facebook this year include global regulation of software companies and restrictions on Internet access by foreign governments, online safety measures, Internet privacy regulations, cyber security, and FCC regulations on net neutrality. A new issue that the company spent lobbying resources on is discussing House, Senate and government rules to allow more government and congressional offices to access social media to engage with citizens.”

Google’s influence peddling is up seven percent from $1.38 million in the first quarter of 2010 to $1.48 million this year. Google spent an aggregate of $5.2 million last year.

According to Rao: “This past quarter, Google’s lobbying strategy for this quarter focused on online advertising regulation, intellectual property and trademark issues, cyber security and online privacy, renewable energy, freedom of expression and censorship, H-1B Visa reform, ‘openness and competition in the online services market,’ cloud computing, tax reform, free trade, congressional Internet service usage rules and broadband access.”

Too much information!

Time for a technology diet? Could be, at least according to a team of researchers at University of California-San Francisco. In a study published last week, they revealed that multitasking negatively affects short-term memory, especially among older adults.

Hmmm … that might explain … never mind!

Researchers’ investigations found that smart phones and social networks are distractions that can hinder mental performance and long-term memory too, and that constant stimuli is addictive. This article is filled with fascinating and disconcerting statistics.

Now, what was I saying? Or more to the point, what was Obama saying?

Canadians face fines, jail time for Tweeting early election results

Can knowing results of an election on the East Coast influence voters on the West Coast who are still lined up at the polling booths? Evidently the Canadian government thinks so.

According to this report, “Laws on the books in Canada bar Canadian citizens on Twitter and Facebook from mentioning election results from East Coast polling stations until all polling stations across the country have closed.”


Hard drives self-destruct if connected to an “unknown host,” read: government host

From Techdirt comes this report that Toshiba is now “offering a hard drive that can delete itself if it’s connected to an “unknown host.” It can also take less extreme measures, including just ramping up the authentication needed. While being pitched as useful for governments, it seems like it can be useful to protect against governments as well.”

Bits and bytes

The time capsule

1945 – Mussolini killed, corpse put on public display

1945 – Hitler is dead

1961 – Castro bans elections: “Revolution has no time for elections.”

1973 – Nixon takes responsibility for Watergate, addresses nation

1975 – Saigon surrenders to communist forces

1976 – Rick Monday saves U.S. Flag – greatest play in baseball

1986 – USSR goes public with Chernobyl accident

1994 – Double-agent Aldrich Ames jailed for life

Now playing at the Princess Theater, Urbana, Ill.

Congratulations to WND readers Chris Morton of Pickerington, Ohio, and Helen Robbens of Granby, Conn., who were among the first to correctly guess actor Burt Reynolds as the character “Lewis” in the three-time Oscar nominated 1972 movie “Deliverance”. The film, also starring Jon Voight, Ned Beatty and Ronny Cox, told the story of four urban businessmen on a weekend canoeing trip in the backwoods of Georgia where they encountered a nightmare.

The quote: “Insurance? I never been insured in my life. There’s no risk.”

This week’s quote: “In a conspiracy like this, you build from the outer edges and go step by step.”

Name the movie, the actor and the character. Send your answer to me at the email address below. Good luck!

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