April, 2017

Government Cartapping

Law enforcement agencies have, for more than 15 years, been able to obtain audio and location data from the systems within automobiles.  For example, in 2014, the FBI in New York, investigating an illegal gambling enterprise, sought an order from a federal court directing SiriusXM “to activate and monitor as a tracking device the SIRIUS XM Satellite Radio installed on the Target Vehicle for a period of 10 days.” SiriusXM complied by activating the stolen vehicle recovery system.

The author of a recent article stated that GM has on multiple occasions provided not just tracking data to law enforcement but, also, audio of in-car conversations recorded through the OnStar service.  In a Michigan case, in 2007, OnStar provided continuous location data as a defendant drove around Michigan; when he was stopped he was found with 43 grams of heroin.  A motion to suppress the evidence was subsequently denied in the federal court [a link to the order is below].  A GM spokesperson was quoted as saying:

“We do not monitor or otherwise track the location of OnStar-equipped cars, unless required by a valid court order in criminal procedures or under exigent circumstances; and we don’t release the number of those requests. We take our customers’ privacy, safety and security very seriously, and we assist them on average more than 600 times each month in North America with some form of Stolen Vehicle Assistance.”

Sources:  Thomas Fox-Brewster, “Cartapping: How Feds Have Spied On Connected Cars For 15 Years,” forbes.com, January 15, 2017:
New York case FBI affidavit:
Michigan case order denying suppression:

Dubai Police Utilize Crime Prediction Software

Dubai Police employed a crime-predictive software in December 2016.  The software, developed by Space Imaging Middle East (“SIME”), uses “sophisticated algorithms” to analyze police databases.  “This software is uniquely intelligent in its capability to accurately discern intricate patterns of criminal behaviour in seemingly unconnected events and then predict the probability of reoccurrence,” according to SIME division head Spandan Kar. 

Some are concerned while AI may be successful in crime prevention – and it will be widely-used by the year 2030 – it could also put “millions of jobs at risk,” and there are risks of invasions of privacy.  New jobs may be created, but “the new jobs that will emerge are harder to imagine in advance than the existing jobs that will likely be lost,” according to a September, 2016, Stanford University report, “Artificial Intelligence and Life in 2030.” AI is increasingly used by law enforcement to fight financial crimes and to search social media for possible threats.  The Stanford researchers noted that “[l]aw enforcement agencies are increasingly interested in trying to detect plans for disruptive events from social media, and also to monitor activity at large gatherings of people to analyse security,” and there “is significant work on crowd simulations to determine how crowds can be controlled.”

Sources:  Cheyenne MacDonald and Shivali Best, “Dubai police launch AI that can spot crimes BEFORE they happen: Crime Prediction software identifies patterns that a human would miss,” dailymail.com, December 23, 2016:
Stanford University report:

A Defense Guide for Challenging Government Hacking

A report, “Challenging Government Hacking in Criminal Cases” (“Malware Guide”), by the ACLU, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL), published in March 2017, noted that law enforcement, and particularly the FBI, is increasingly turning to a broader use of malware in investigations.  The use of such malware, initially directed at individual computers, allows now for a “form of bulk hacking that enables small teams of agents to hack thousands of computers in a single operation.”  Once a computer system is hacked, the law enforcement agents can control, disable, monitor and surveil the use of the computer.

 The purpose of the Malware Guide is “to educate defense attorneys about these highly intrusive surveillance techniques and to help them prepare a zealous defense on behalf of their clients against secretive and potentially unlawful hacking.”  More specifically, according to ACLU attorney Vera Eidelman, “Our goal is to ensure that the government’s uses of malware don’t violate the Fourth Amendment. That means that hacking always requires a warrant based on individual suspicion.”  Jumana Musa of the NACDL said, “We’re proud to release this report to ensure the defense community is educated about these highly intrusive surveillance techniques and is fully armed for a zealous defense against potentially unlawful hacking.”

Sources:  https://www.aclu.org/sites/default/files/field_document/malware_guide_3-30-17-v2.pdf

by Neil Leithauser
Associate Editor