How The Feds Are Tracking Us

Evidence is mounting that the federal government is working hard to find new ways to track us.  This effort is not receiving the attention that it deserves. The federal government is constantly developing new technologies that will become more and more intrusive and will continue to eat away at our privacy. This article will discuss some of the new technologies that are on the way.

The FBI has just started rolling out its Next Generation system. The program costs $1 billion and will involve a gigantic national database of mug shots, DNA samples, iris (eye) scans, voice records and fingerprints collected from more than 100 million people that is designed to identify and arrest criminals.  The federal government has already secured the cooperation of many state agencies, and by the time its fully deployed in 2014 will have the photographs of over 12 million faces.  The problem is that they intend not only to obtain the photographs of known criminals but to obtain photographs of any and all citizens. They want to be able to take a picture of a crowd and be able to identify all the people in that crowd, not just criminals. They will be able to capture photographs of people on social media sites or from any other public source.  This will make it possible to track people’s movements and who they associate with.

The website, Wikileaks, recently released some secret documents about a new system called, TrapWire. TrapWire is a technology that collects data from individuals and then uses a complex computer program to predict criminal behavior.  The Wikileaks release involved emails from Stratfor, a private security firm, in which they discussed this new software in detail.  So basically they input all this data about an individual into this computer program and it predicts what they will do.  According to the emails released by Wikileaks this program is already being used in New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, London, some Canadian cities and by some privately owed Las Vegas Casinos.  If they are able to develop a computer program that will be able to predict an individual’s propensity to commit criminal acts, it will not be hard to tweak the computer program to be able to predict the religious beliefs of a person, their political beliefs, their values, their character, etc.  Highly troubling stuff.

Attention Apple users.  There is compelling evidence that the FBI is storing the Unique Device Identifier numbers of Apple mobile device users. Everyone who owns a mobile Apple device, such as an iPhone, has a Unique Device Identifier (UDID) number. Think of it as your customer number. That UDID has your name, address, cell phone number and email address.  That information is supposed to be securely stored by Apple. Last week, a hacker known as AntiSec, published more than one million UDID’s that he claims he obtained from a laptop that was stolen from an FBI agent.  The FBI denies that any of their laptops have been stolen but iPhone users who are looking up their UDID on the list are finding their UDID on that list. If this is true then we need to know why the FBI is collecting UDID numbers and how did they get this information?  Is Apple turning over their customers private information to the FBI without their knowledge and consent?  Click here to check if your device has been compromised.

On the legal front legislation is currently pending in front of Congress that would allow companies to share the private data of their customers with the Federal government without a warrant and without their customers permission. The legislation is known as CISPA in the House, and SECURE IT in the Senate. In January the United States Supreme Court ruled that police violated a defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights when they placed a GPS tracking device on his vehicle without a warrant. Prosecutors have chosen to retry the man and in pretrial discovery, prosecutors have disclosed that they have cell phone tracking records of the defendant for five months.

As technology becomes more complex, we need to constantly be looking at how it is being used to track us. We also need to ask why?  Why does the government feel such a compelling need to be able to follow us and monitor every single move, every step we take.  The public needs to take a greater interest in monitoring the steps that are being taken to track us and infringe on our privacy.

James Dimeas is an award winning Chicago criminal defense attorney and author with more than 23 years of experience aggressively representing his clients facing criminal charges.  If you have a criminal case in Illinois, contact me in Chicago (312-229-5500), DuPage and Kane (630-504-2096) or Lake (847-696-6458) for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your legal options.

Additional Resources:

How the Feds Are Tracking Us, Christina DesMarais, PCWord, September 8, 2012.