'Even if you disable GPS, deactivate phone location tracking, and turn off your phone, it’s still possible for Google and the NSA to monitor your every move.
Over the last two decades, cell phone use has become an everyday part of life for the vast majority of people around the planet. Nearly without question, consumers have chosen to carry these increasingly smart devices with them everywhere they go. Despite surveillance revelations from whistleblowers like Edward Snowden, the average smart phone user continues to carry the devices with little to no security or protection from privacy invasions.
Americans make up one of the largest smartphone markets in the world today, yet they rarely question how intelligence agencies or private corporations might be using their smartphone data. A recent report from the New York Times adds to the growing list of reasons why Americans should be asking these questions. According to the Times, law enforcement have been using a secret technique to figure out the location of Android users. The technique involves gathering detailed location data collected by Google from Android phones, iPhones, and iPads that have Google Maps and other Google apps installed.
The location data is stored inside a Google database known as Sensorvault, which contains detailed location records of hundreds of millions of devices from around the world. The records reportedly contain location data going back to 2009. The data is collected whether or not users are making calls or using apps.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) says police are using a single warrant—sometimes known as a “geo-fence” warrant—to access location data from devices that are linked to individuals who have no connection to criminal activity and have not provided any reasonable suspicion of a crime. Jennifer Lynch, EFF’s Surveillance Litigation Director, says these searches are problematic for several reasons.
“First, unlike other methods of investigation used by the police, the police don’t start with an actual suspect or even a target device—they work backward from a location and time to identify a suspect,” Lynch wrote. “This makes it a fishing expedition—the very kind of search that the Fourth Amendment was intended to prevent. Searches like these—where the only information the police have is that a crime has occurred—are much more likely to implicate innocent people who just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Every device owner in the area during the time at issue becomes a suspect—for no other reason than that they own a device that shares location information with Google.”'
Read more: Google Tracks Your Location and Shares It With Police, Even When Your Phone is Off
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