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      The off-topic flags here are ridiculous. Seriously? This is a story about persistent google location services being the cause of the investigation of a suspect with no other indications of guilt, and the privacy-vs-law enforcement battle which followed.

      Getting into the article:

      learned that the notice had been prompted by a “geofence warrant,” a police surveillance tool that casts a virtual dragnet over crime scenes, sweeping up Google location data — drawn from users’ GPS, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and cellular connections — from everyone nearby.

      This type of warrant is scary. As the lawyer will later argue, the number of innocent people potentially swept up by a blind geofence is huge, and it’s totally backwards from the usual suspicion -> warrant pathway.

      the Jan. 14 notice the technology giant sent to McCoy, part of its general policy on notifying users about government requests for their information. The notice was McCoy’s only indication that police wanted his data.

      We should not have to rely on a company’s policy to be notified that our moral rights to privacy and constitutional protection against unreasonable search are being violated.

      There have been very few court challenges to Google geofence warrants, mainly because the warrants are done in secret and defense lawyers may not realize the tool was used

      I didn’t know that was possible, with discovery and such, but that’s a problem as well. We should have full transparency to law enforcement actions after those details become no longer sensitive.

      (From the lawyer’s filing against the warrant)

      “This geofence warrant effectively blindly casts a net backwards in time hoping to ensnare a burglar,” Kenyon wrote. “This concept is akin to the plotline in many a science fiction film featuring a dystopian, fascist government.”

      Nice quote.

      On Feb. 24, Kenyon dropped his legal challenge. The case ended well for McCoy, Kenyon said, but “the larger privacy fight will go unanswered.”

      This is a problem too.. letting cases like this fold prevents people without the money to bring powerful lawyers to the party from using the system to establish precedent.

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        I flagged both this and 5zxfms as off-topic. No regrets.

        Why? Because it’s not programming related. And both submissions are US-centric. And even if the situations described in both cases are deplorable, the solution to them has to be political and/or judicial, and that comes back to the US-centricity of both pieces.

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          I think “computing” and “technology” are broader than just “programming,” and this is a forum on the two former, which includes the latter. But regardless, there are a few angles from which I see this as not off-topic.

          First, as you mentioned the political/judicial aspect of some resolutions to these issues, there are also technical solutions to these kinds of problems, or at least technologies (within cryptography, for example) which seek to enable these kinds of functionalities without compromising privacy completely. Posting this here is relevant to people who do work in that space, and is informative and useful in that way.

          Second, this is the “privacy” tag. This story is part of a much larger picture of expanding technology and its impact on privacy, and therefore is very relevant and topical.

          You’re right that there’s quite a bit of US-centricism in the conversation. That’s primarily because many of the companies perpetuating this stuff at massive scale are American.

          All said, though, I feel this is not off-topic in the least.

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            You have not convinced me to remove my flag.

            there are also technical solutions to these kinds of problems, or at least technologies (within cryptography, for example) which seek to enable these kinds of functionalities without compromising privacy completely.


            Second, this is the “privacy” tag.

            Then why not post examples of an exercise tracking app that does not send location data to the cloud? Or ask if such apps are available? That would be both actionable and on topic.

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              Then we might just be of differing mindsets. Not a problem, we can agree to disagree.

              I don’t think that every post must be “complete,” i.e. posing an issue and an infallible or at least completely defended resolution, or directly actionable.

              This post is certainly “news,” but it’s also evidence of privacy-violating practices. This kind of evidence, that can be used to motivate research, is useful to endure beyond the news cycle, and thus I like seeing it here.

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      This folds nicely into this conversation from a month ago:


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      I think a problem is that this is always being shown in the media from the perspective of a surveillance state, but what about legitimate use to find actual criminals?

      This has already been a problem since long ago. If you’ve ever had anything stolen in California that’s easily trackable, unless tracking is something that you can do on your own, you’re basically out of luck. AT&T won’t give you or the police the triangulated location, unless they get a warrant, and they aren’t going to get a warrant because out-of-budget; I’ve heard it’s better outside of California, though, which perhaps explains why they still do try to solve crimes back in Florida.

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        Who cares if they solve a thousand crimes, if they ever wrongly convict an innocent person?

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          I mean, 1000:1 is well past the point where the collateral damage is acceptable to most of society.

          Calling for 10:1 (in favor of protecting innocents) was famously controversial long, long ago.