Tracking tracking: NSA's French collection; GPS and law enforcement; what the TSA knows

From the NSA to the TSA, we’ve got your tracking news right here:

• First, more developments in the NSA spying saga. James Clapper, director of National Intelligence, is denying a report that the National Security Agency recorded more than 70 million phone-call records and text messages of French terrorism suspects and other citizens. The Le Monde report has angered the French, just the latest of U.S. allies to voice displeasure as revelations of the scope of NSA surveillance trickle out.

As we’ve written, Clapper has admitted to lying to Congress about the NSA’s collection of data. The Verge points out that to explain himself, Clapper split hairs about the definition of “collection.”

• Elsewhere: A federal appeals court ruled (PDF) Tuesday in Philadelphia that the government must obtain a warrant before attaching a GPS unit to a suspect’s car.

In U.S. vs. Katzin, FBI agents tracking robbery suspects attached a GPS device to one of the suspects’ cars without getting a warrant. The suspects who were arrested argued that the use of the GPS tracker without a warrant violated their Fourth Amendment rights.

The ruling comes after the Supreme Court last year decided that attaching GPS to a car constitutes a search under the Fourth Amendment. However, the Supreme Court stopped short of saying that law enforcement needed to obtain a warrant in such cases.

Tuesday’s ruling — the first on this matter since the Supreme Court decision — was “a victory for all Americans because it ensures that the police cannot use powerful tracking technology without court supervision and a good reason to believe it will turn up evidence of wrongdoing,” ACLU Staff Attorney Catherine Crump, who argued before the three-judge panel, said in an emailed statement.

• On to the caboose of this tracking train: The Transportation Security Administration does quite a bit of tracking itself, with much of the “pre-screening” happening before passengers arrive at the airport, according to the New York Times. That in itself may not be surprising, but consumer and privacy advocates worry about an expanding effort that includes a database maintained by the Department of Homeland Security. The Automated Targeting System contains plenty of personal data that is apparently shared with local, state and federal agencies, as well as businesses.

“The average person doesn’t understand how much intelligence-driven matching is going on and how this could be accessed for other purposes,” Khaliah Barnes, a lawyer with the Electronic Privacy Information Center, told the NYT.

 

Photo: National Intelligence Director James Clapper, seen in this 2010 photo, is denying that the NSA recorded more than 70 million phone-call and text-message records of the French. (Associated Press archives)

Levi Sumagaysay Levi Sumagaysay (4127 Posts)

Levi Sumagaysay is editor of the combined SiliconBeat and Good Morning Silicon Valley. She also helps take care of SiliconValley.com, the Mercury News tech website. Email: lsumagaysay@bayareanewsgroup.com