slow.camp : james' personal home page journal

2018.05.24 : Letter to Senator Cortez Masto regarding Location Tracking

Letter to Senator Cortez Masto regarding Location Tracking

Senator Cortez Masto,

I’m writing as a constituent to voice my concerns regarding an issue I feel is a systemic fourth amendment violation affecting nearly every cell phone user* in the United States, including fellow Nevadans (*specifically those whose cell phones connect through cell towers maintained by AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint).

Recently, it’s been discovered that the four carriers listed above have been simultaneously selling real time location data for every cellular device connected to their networks to third party companies. Two known customers for this data are LocationSmart and Securus. Location Smart specifically, has had security practice so lax, that a security flaw in their website [1] allowed any party to access real time location data for any cellular device.

The extent of the abuse of this specific security flaw remains an issue being investigated by the company itself (and that investigation may conclude that the flaw was not abused by malicious parties, but merely discovered and responsibly disclosed to LocationSmart by a security researcher). But I feel strongly that the entire chain of custody for such obviously personally sensitive information here is dubious. Why are the carriers acting in unison to sell our location data to third party companies? Do they sell this information to any other customers in addition to LocationSmart and Securus? Why is LocationSmart’s handling of this data so overtly careless? And most importantly – how could any of this possibly be allowed without legal oversite and the presence of a warrant?

I am not a lawyer, but we know that fourth amendment rights protect US citizens from actions from the US Government, while thus far actions listed above involve only corporations, and not government actors. However, at least one government agent - Missouri Sherriff Cory Hutcheson [2] – is facing criminal charges for allegedly abusing data provided by Securus to systemically track the location of individuals without a warrant from 2014 through 2017. Including the location of a Judge and Officers of the State Highway Patrol. I believe this systemic, years long, abuse of Securus data by an agent of the US Government makes fourth amendment concerns in this matter applicable.

These developments are made all the more disturbing by the knowledge that the current head of the FCC, Ajit Pai, used to represent Securus as its attorney in 2012 and may thus have a conflict of interest in any investigation of Securus and its business partners by the FCC [3].

As you are likely aware, Senator Wyden recently had harsh words for Securus and called for an FCC investigation into this matter [4].

As your constituent, I am asking that you stay informed of these developing issues and respond in a way that most appropriately protects the fourth amendment rights of all Nevadans.

Thank you for your consideration of this matter.

Respectfully,

-James Schaefer

[1] https://www.robertxiao.ca/hacking/locationsmart/

[2] https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/10/technology/cellphone-tracking-law-enforcement.html

[3] https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2017/08/ajit-pai-accused-of-conflict-for-helping-former-client-a-prison-phone-company/

[4] https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2018/05/senator-wyden-calls-fcc-investigate-real-time-location-data-sharing-all-cellphone

This open letter is also published to my personal website at the following location:

http://slow.camp/journal/2018/05/24/Letter_to_Senator_Cortez_Masto_regarding_Location_Tracking