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A Sensitive Subject - Smartphone Tracking/Eavesdropping

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  • A Sensitive Subject - Smartphone Tracking/Eavesdropping

    This is a subject which I intend to use as an ongoing subplot if I am able to extend my story out into a series. Briefly, it's well known that Google (parent of Android) and Apple (iOS) collectively have an attitude towards privacy and personal data which falls somewhere between "nod, nod; wink, wink" and, "HAHAHAHAHA! Are you kidding?!" Their phones are always tracking your location, always listening to your conversations, and they sell the data to anyone with ready cash. Oh, they piously claim to strip out all personal identification data...but how many people are there who routinely commute between a certain bungalow in Skyscraper Shadows and a well-known hotel building in downtown Houston?

    I'm not asking for details of deep, dark secrets, but for those of you who carry smartphones, whether personal or agency-issued, while on duty, are there any special precautions or protective measures taken by you and/or your agency to guard against this data being used against you by those who might hold a grudge? (Regardless of whether that grudge is directed at you personally or at cops or even just Americans in general...foreign terrorists.) If there is any semi-public/FOIA data on this subject available I would appreciate a pointer in the right direction. Thanks.

  • #2
    Go into settings and turn off all that you can...locator and GPS. Also, for going full dark, look up Faraday bags...

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    • #3
      That's all that I am aware of.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by ehbowen View Post
        This is a subject which I intend to use as an ongoing subplot if I am able to extend my story out into a series. Briefly, it's well known that Google (parent of Android) and Apple (iOS) collectively have an attitude towards privacy and personal data which falls somewhere between "nod, nod; wink, wink" and, "HAHAHAHAHA! Are you kidding?!" Their phones are always tracking your location, always listening to your conversations, and they sell the data to anyone with ready cash. Oh, they piously claim to strip out all personal identification data...but how many people are there who routinely commute between a certain bungalow in Skyscraper Shadows and a well-known hotel building in downtown Houston?

        I'm not asking for details of deep, dark secrets, but for those of you who carry smartphones, whether personal or agency-issued, while on duty, are there any special precautions or protective measures taken by you and/or your agency to guard against this data being used against you by those who might hold a grudge? (Regardless of whether that grudge is directed at you personally or at cops or even just Americans in general...foreign terrorists.) If there is any semi-public/FOIA data on this subject available I would appreciate a pointer in the right direction. Thanks.
        Some people use Signal, Telegram or other such encrypted messenger apps for messaging. I use a VPN to keep the carrier from seeing my web traffic. Other than that, there isn't much you can do, there is always a tradeoff between security and usability. If I want to use a smart phone (or in the case of my job, I have to), then I do what I can and don't worry about it too much.
        Be dangerous, and unpredictable... and make a lot of noise. - John Bush, Anthrax

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        • #5
          A little off topic, but I had a Lieutenant that claimed that he had the right to seize our personal cell phones and strip them for any and all data, for any reason or for no reason, if we used our phones for any work purposes, like taking evidence photos or calling our beat partners.

          So I got a second phone. I turned everything off, never used the internet on it, and didn't even program anyone's phone numbers into it- it was literally empty. So if he had demanded my phone, I would have given that one to him.

          And if I had been ordered to surrender any phone records for that phone or any other phone, I would have politely and respectfully explained that the phone(s) I carried were not my phones, they were solely in my wife's name, and that when I told her that I had been ordered to surrender phone records, that she had flatly refused, and further, that she had proclaimed that my Lieutenant should go eat a bowl of dicks...

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Aidokea View Post
            A little off topic, but I had a Lieutenant that claimed that he had the right to seize our personal cell phones and strip them for any and all data, for any reason or for no reason, if we used our phones for any work purposes, like taking evidence photos or calling our beat partners.
            I've heard people say that your personal phone becomes discoverable if you use it for work purposes, but that's an extreme that I think no court would ever support... I'm sure the LT never actually tried to make good on his threat, I'm sure the IA folks and the brass above him would tell him his theory was less than half-baked.


            And if I had been ordered to surrender any phone records for that phone or any other phone, I would have politely and respectfully explained that the phone(s) I carried were not my phones, they were solely in my wife's name, and that when I told her that I had been ordered to surrender phone records, that she had flatly refused, and further, that she had proclaimed that my Lieutenant should go eat a bowl of dicks...
            I use Signal for any "sensitive" material I want to send on my phone, which consists predominantly of politically incorrect memes I send to my brother and conversations with reporters. The messages are set to auto-delete after 30 minutes and aren't able to be recovered by the company. The last I heard, Atlanta Officer Garrett Rolfe had his personal cell phone seized in the travesty of a case the political hack DA made against him, but they couldn't access the contents. Apparently they went after it because he called his coworkers on it after the shooting.

            Be dangerous, and unpredictable... and make a lot of noise. - John Bush, Anthrax

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Georgetime View Post

              I've heard people say that your personal phone becomes discoverable if you use it for work purposes, but that's an extreme that I think no court would ever support...
              They can, they will, and they have.

              In criminal cases, if the defense can establish that information contained in the officer's personal cellphone is relevant to their client's case, they can subpoena those records. It's not a carte blanche to seize the phone and go through everything on it, but limited in scope to what is reasonable. In cases where an officer/agency/prosecutor fails to provide those records, the charges against the defendant are often dismissed.

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              • CCCSD
                CCCSD commented
                Editing a comment
                Yep. Been that way for YEARS. Use your own stuff, expect it ALL to become public.

            • #8
              I am always willing to comply with a lawful subpoena. Hillary Rodham Clinton paved the way down this legal path with Bleach-Bit and sledge hammers to make sure there was nothing to recover from cell phones or private e-mail servers.

              I'll stop by WalMart tomorrow and pick up another new pre-paid burner phone, or I might just decide to live without an electronic leash around my neck.

              But I'm an old retired guy, not a working person who has to deal with overbearing bosses.

              Comment


              • #9
                As long as you don’t use personal electronic devices at work, you’re fine. But take one photo, or phone call or text, Then it’s all open.
                Now go home and get your shine box!

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                • #10
                  Same goes for internal investigations. If you use your personal phone during work hours, conduct any work-related business, take photographs, use the internet or call/text with co-workers, you open yourself up to scrutiny. If your phone contains anything that is relevant to an internal investigation either against you or another member of the department, you are obligated to provide the requested data.

                  Being uncooperative during an IA investigation is a good way to get terminated for insubordination, and being untruthful during an official investigation is a good way to end up on the prosecutor's "brady list".

                  Silly games such as handing your LT an empty decoy phone, or refusing to cooperate because the phone is in your wife's name, or telling him to eat a bag of dicks will likely also result in discipline up to and including termination.

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                  • #11
                    ***********
                    Last edited by retired137; 10-19-2020, 08:41 PM.

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                    • #12
                      A prosecutor tried to play the personal cell phone game when it was alleged he sent disparaging remarks about a deputy that was involved in litigation with the county. The county spent upwards of 1,000,000.00 defending the prosecutor. The deputy ultimately prevailed with discovery and the original litigation. The personal cell phone is a slippery slope with no upsides.

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                      • #13
                        Well, in the story I'm working on the two main characters have their company issued (Railroad police) cell phones but not personal cell phones, although he has a personal landline phone at home. However, she is taking steps not to expose her secret identity (as an angel) in a way which a check of her cell phone data would expose. She's less concerned about "official" (subpoena) checks than she is about, say, a scan of her data by a Google insider. Was wanting to see if any of your agencies were concerned about reducing your attack surface to such matters.

                        Edit To Add: Obviously you wouldn't have the concern about Hell finding you out, but you/your agency might be concerned about a terrorist group purchasing Google metadata in bulk in order to identify potential targets who are police officers.

                        Comment


                        • #14
                          Originally posted by not.in.MY.town View Post

                          They can, they will, and they have.

                          In criminal cases, if the defense can establish that information contained in the officer's personal cellphone is relevant to their client's case, they can subpoena those records. It's not a carte blanche to seize the phone and go through everything on it, but limited in scope to what is reasonable.
                          And therein lies the rub, and the point of my comment: It's just like anything else, there has to be something other than "he simply used his phone while at work" to support taking someone's personal property and dumping the contents. Much like the story of the LT who said he can take an employee's personal phone FOR NO REASON. No, that's not going to fly. So, don't use your phone to take photos of evidence, or text and call complainants, etc... and you have nothing to worry about. I have nothing to worry about in that regard anyhow, I don't own a personal phone, I only have my work cell and so I conduct all my affairs as if my employer can see everything, since it all belongs to them anyway. I have no mistresses, don't send inappropriate pics or texts, and all my sensitive communications that are work related disappear after 30 minutes by default on my Signal account. It's already been proven that Signal leaves no trace of messages that can be recovered pursuant to a subpoena or FOIA request, and very likely even by forensic software. There's no difference in using something like that than there is in closing the door and whispering, you don't lose all privacy interests even if you're on government time, but you do have to be proactive in securing your communications (whether you're a cop or just Joe Citizen).



                          Last edited by Georgetime; 10-21-2020, 09:27 AM.
                          Be dangerous, and unpredictable... and make a lot of noise. - John Bush, Anthrax

                          Comment


                          • #15
                            Originally posted by Georgetime View Post

                            And therein lies the rub, and the point of my comment: It's just like anything else, there has to be something other than "he simply used his phone while at work" to support taking someone's personal property and dumping the contents. Much like the story of the LT who said he can take an employee's personal phone FOR NO REASON. No, that's not going to fly. So, don't use your phone to take photos of evidence, or text and call complainants, etc... and you have nothing to worry about. I have nothing to worry about in that regard anyhow, I don't own a personal phone, I only have my work cell and so I conduct all my affairs as if my employer can see everything, since it all belongs to them anyway. I have no mistresses, don't send inappropriate pics or texts, and all my sensitive communications that are work related disappear after 30 minutes by default on my Signal account. It's already been proven that Signal leaves no trace of messages that can be recovered pursuant to a subpoena or FOIA request, and very likely even by forensic software. There's no difference in using something like that than there is in closing the door and whispering, you don't lose all privacy interests even if you're on government time, but you do have to be proactive in securing your communications (whether you're a cop or just Joe Citizen).
                            I HIGHLY doubt that the story told by another member above is factual the way that they told it. IF (and that's a BIG "if") his LT in fact made those statements (that he can strip his personal cell phone for any and all data for any reason or no reason at all) then clearly, he would be way out of bounds.

                            More likely, that LT was trying to make the same point that most supervisors/admins try to get their troops to understand: "Don't use your personal phone for work. If you do, you run the risk of having it subpoenaed or used as part of an internal investigation".

                            [As far as you using your work phone for all your personal affairs, that's probably another issue in itself. Perhaps you have cleared that with your employer. It sure wouldn't fly here. Why should your agency (and ultimately the general public) pay for your personal phone calls and data usage? Even if it's a flat rate and unlimited data, etc etc. It still seems inappropriate.]

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