Welcome to the (iPhone) surveillance state

How the FBI is using iPhone location data and facial recognition to ID participants in the Capitol riot.

From AppleInsider’s Apple Crime Blotter, posted Sunday:

When hundreds of people stormed the U.S. Capitol during the counting of the 2020 electoral votes, one thing was very noticeable: Many of them were holding up iPhones.

In the days that followed the January 8 capitol attack, it was clear that iPhones would be playing a big part in the arrests and eventual prosecutions of some participants. Many of those who took part in the insurrection not only shot and streamed footage, but they were glimpsed on the cameras of photos and videos shot by others, sometimes in the act of committing crimes.

Those phones were emitting location data, and law enforcement agencies have also been using facial recognition technology, including the controversial application Clearview AI, which Apple banned in February 2020.

The FBI, per The Verge, has collected more than 100,000 pieces of digital evidence related to the Capitol attack, and more than 170 cases had been opened as of January 12. At least one criminal complaint for a person charged in connection with the attack specifically referenced an iPhone search, which turned up location data.

Meanwhile, several members of Congress reported computers being stolen from their offices. Rep. Jim Clyburn, a member of the House Democratic leadership, was originally reported to have had his iPad stolen during the insurrection, although it was later determined that a staffer had moved it, reports CNN.

My take: Once you’re caught on camera, Apple can’t do much to protect your identity.

27 Comments

  1. Gregg Thurman said:
    My take: Once you’re you’re caught on camera, Apple can’t do much to protect your identity.

    Commit a crime where there is video surveillance and it is highly likely you will be caught.

    The Boston marathon bombers were identified, out of a crowd of hundreds of thousands, within 24 hours of the attack. The attackers ultimate goal was similar bombings in New York. They were stopped before they could accomplish their goal.

    The video surveillance in Boston was as much civilian as it was governmental. How many acts of police misconduct have been exposed by private citizens wielding smartphone cameras. Thank god for smartphones.

    6
    January 17, 2021
  2. David Emery said:
    Apparently the Feds cannot subpoena cell phone location data from the telcos, but they can buy it from 3rd party sources. Go figure!

    0
    January 17, 2021
  3. James Dean said:
    Amdocs Ltd.

    I think they also fully or partially own Ancestry.com
    Genetic data harvesting anyone?

    1
    January 17, 2021
  4. Gregg Thurman said:
    The internet isn’t free. It costs money to build and maintain the network and the content we consume.

    In exchange for the data and content we desire we make monthly subscription payments and give up a degree of our privacy. Once we have given it up, which occurs the moment we log on, we have no privacy (not everyone believes as does Apple, which isn’t perfect).

    Complaining about the loss of our privacy is disingenuous and akin to sticking our head in the sand. The only way you can protect your privacy is to live like Ted Kaczynski, in a cabin in the woods without benefit of telephone, utilities or mailing address. Short of that you leave a digital trail somewhere. But then, eventually, even Kaczynski got found because he ventured into the world.

    2
    January 17, 2021
    • David Emery said:
      But a big part of the problem in my view is that we are not given the opportunity for ‘informed consent’, particularly for the 3rd parties that broker information. That’s why Apple’s forthcoming ‘opt-in’ approach is valuable, as it establishes a lot more understanding of the trade.

      And I’m certainly old enough to remember when the Internet did not need surveillance to pay for it! There’s an implication that “spying is the only economic model to sustain the Internet.” I think that’s flat wrong.

      3
      January 17, 2021
      • Gregg Thurman said:
        There’s an implication that “spying is the only economic model to sustain the Internet.” I think that’s flat wrong.

        The “internet” as we know it today began as a network linking University and government research networks together. It was called Arpanet, and was funded by its participants (including the government). Netscape made navigating the “internet” easy enough for civilian use (you didn’t need a computer science degree). That caused an explosion in civilian/commercial use. That use was funded by commercial portals, who then passed on the costs (plus a bit of profit) to their respective subscribers. Everything was subscription until Google showed the world how to monetize search by collecting user data and selling it to advertisers.

        Today “spying” is the major source of funding of the internet because users like the sound of “free”.

        3
        January 17, 2021
        • Alan Birnbaum said:
          Bring back ‘Arpanet’ and Tutor programming language /s
          ( I helped write Bugs ‘N Drugs for my medical school so many years ago )

          2
          January 17, 2021
          • David Drinkwater said:
            Yeah, and bring back USENET newsgroups, too, while you are at it.

            People seems to have become to lazy nowadays to earn those privileges. Either that, or the vast majority of the people who use the internet today would not have used USENET and the early internet anyway.

            Progress comes with a price tag.

            0
            January 18, 2021
        • David Emery said:
          A key part of the expansion of the Internet was the funding of the backbone by the National Science Foundation. NSF also funded IETF, I believe (but I’m not quite as sure about that.) And, of course, much of the software was free (from Bell Labs, e.g. Unix, or others.)

          Then as Gregg noted, internet companies used fee-for-service models (“You’ve got mail!”) to fund both the consumer facing products and the network infrastructure. Basic access to the Internet could be purchased through an ISP, if you didn’t need the consumer-facing services.

          The surveillance funding of the Internet fueled the growth of the backbone, as well as free services. But that’s a relatively new development. Before Google turned into an ad/surveillance company, it was just one of several different kinds of internet search services.

          0
          January 17, 2021
  5. James Dean said:
    I am a firm believer in VPN, and wont use any device without a VPN connection. Small price to pay…

    0
    January 17, 2021
  6. John Konopka said:
    A lot of these guys were posting their videos to Parler and other places to brag about what they did. When they got home their friends and families, horrified at what they did, turned over these pictures and videos to the FBI. I heard on the news that the FBI has already received over 140,000 pieces of such evidence.

    This is an interesting concept that pops up a lot on the TV show NCIS: Los Angeles. Where there are no security cameras they scour through FB, Instagram and such to find civilian photos and videos from an area to see if they can capture pictures of the bad guys in the backgrounds.

    When I was a boy (someone should start a website like this) you had to voluntarily pose for a photo. Having your picture taken was a rare event.

    0
    January 17, 2021
    • David Emery said:
      What I found really funny was how many guys were turned in by their ex-wives 🙂

      5
      January 17, 2021
  7. Bart Yee said:
    We should also give credit to some Android phones’ video and pics because historically (depending on which Quarter & who provides the stats) in the US Apple iOS has between 41-50% of sales market share and Android the balance. It is an ironic feature that iPhone design is both distinctive and recognizable even from afar.

    0
    January 17, 2021
  8. James Dean said:
    The truly funny part is that Google hands over that location data, and the email/message-texts transcriptions of every gmail account directly to the NSA, the big Google daily dump!

    Do no evil, right…

    0
    January 17, 2021
    • David Emery said:
      Your basis for this assertion, please?

      1
      January 17, 2021
  9. Bart Yee said:
    I wonder how long it would take for the NSA, FBI, etc. to use whatever techniques it has (bought) to download all arrested owners and searched smartphones and computers and then subject that Data to a thorough analysis? If the WashPo can create a 3D digitized roadmap of events via photos and video, these agencies can understand communications, and any command and control, if any.

    I would suggest holding any of that info from any current agency political appointees until they are replaced by the new administration.

    1
    January 17, 2021
  10. Ken Cheng said:
    So, would Airport mode and not posting your exif location data with your photos and videos have protected these numbnuts?

    0
    January 17, 2021
  11. Peter Kropf said:
    Pretty accurate location data (tower logs and public wifi access points) is collected and sent to police and NSA types by the telecoms.

    Every phone with active wifi within the bldg had its IP address and device identifier recorded by gov’t router logs. These internal logs will place phones (with triangulation) within a very small circle. Phones might be located within a circle as tight as a 10 feet.

    1
    January 17, 2021
    • David Emery said:
      “data they were entitled to under court orders granted by the secret FISA court.”

      There is a huge difference between Google responding to FISA warrants and your assertion “email/message-texts transcriptions of every gmail account [sent] directly to the NSA”

      0
      January 18, 2021
  12. James Dean said:
    In 2013 Eric Schmidt said, and i quote

    In 2013, Schmidt stated that the government surveillance in the United States was the “nature of our society” and that he was not going to “pass judgment on that”

    And he works for the DOD now.

    Here is good read on Prism

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/PRISM_(surveillance_program)

    And they only answer to the FISA courts, hands of from US Supreme Courts. (Shhhh)

    0
    January 17, 2021
  13. “It’s a lot like trying to nail Jello to the wall…” – William Jefferson Clinton
    Ma Bell spent 6 years training me about every technical aspect of their business. Recently. Most of the assertions about Apple, Google & service providers in the above comments are inaccurate. NDAs prevent me from elucidating further plus I’m not a lawyer. Here’s the simple answer. Since 2001 privacy is a thing of the past. Even so called encrypted apps are pointless if an individual is suspected of committing a felony. Wiretaps now involve cloning the device or the cell tower.

    0
    January 18, 2021
  14. Joe Murphy said:
    Thomas W., I acknowledge that “since 2001 privacy is a thing of the past. Even so called encrypted apps are pointless if an individual is suspected of committing a felony” or at least not what it used to be.
    Two caveats:
    1. iMessage stays on Apple’s system, thus is inaccessible and secure.
    2. Most people are not suspected of a felony. If a person puts themself in a position to be suspected of a felony that is generally a poor choice. Or to paraphrase Steve Job’s antennagate moment – If this action makes you a suspect in a felony, don’t do it.

    0
    January 18, 2021
  15. EZ Pass sells their data to a firm that repackages it for sale to car insurance firms. This sort of commercial collection and sale of every aspect of our lives is said to anonymized, or stripped of key identification but every one using it knows how to combine 2 data sets to make the data personal again. Palantir, XRVision, NEC (reads behind mask) et al can find anyone. Once the rabbit got out in 2001 it did what rabbits do best. EU privacy laws are better but still deeply flawed. Apple is one of a few fighting back tho.

    0
    January 24, 2021

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