recommended reading

Yes, the government can still spy on your digital life (for now)


Ahead of a controversial Senate debate on digital privacy this week, the battle over warrantless cell-phone and Internet searches is beginning to take shape — even as law-enforcement agencies continue to carry out the searches anyway. Judges across the country have thrown out cases that used tracked digital American lives without warrants, but others haven't, reports The New York Times's Somini Sengupta. A DC court, for example, compared text messages to voicemail messages, which because they can be overheard are not protected by state privacy laws, argued one judge. A Louisiana court is deciding if cell-phone records are like business records. Another court ruled that GPS cell phone tracking without a warrant was fine, too. Others, however, argue that cell phones are more than just a paper trail. One judge called cell phones "raw, unvarnished and immediate, revealing the most intimate of thoughts and emotions," as in something that is subject to higher privacy standards. Meanwhile, we see the same inconsistencies with Internet protections, reports The Wall Street Journal's Joe Pallazolo. A federal court recently ruled that people who use their neighbors' WiFi without permission forfeit privacy, opening up government officials to warrantless searches. The same ruling other courts have made for IP addresses. However, the law isn't that clear-cut, either, argues George Washington University professor Oren Kerr. 

Without clear rules, government agencies have continued investigations with warrantless searches. As people have started using cell phones more often and for more than just calling, law enforcement agency requests for cell-phone information have increased, reported The New York Times's Eric Lichtblau earlier this year. AT&T gets more than 700 requests a day from various agencies, triple what it got in 2007, he notes. Last year, the total number of requests came in at at least 1.3 million. At the same time, the application for wiretapping warrants declined 14 percent last year to 2,732, according to the Administrative Office of the United States Courts. A curious pattern considering the requests for information have gone up. Though these wireless carriers say they require a search warrant, a court order or a formal subpoena to release information, "in cases that law enforcement officials deem an emergency, a less formal request is often enough," writes Lichtblau. Or, it's possible that law enforcement has opted for other forms of tracking that don't require warrants, at least not according to some judges. 

Read more at The Atlantic Wire

(Image via michaeljung/

Threatwatch Alert

Software vulnerability

Malware Has a New Hiding Place: Subtitles

See threatwatch report


Close [ x ] More from Nextgov

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Modernizing IT for Mission Success

    Surveying Federal and Defense Leaders on Priorities and Challenges at the Tactical Edge

  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

  • Effective Ransomware Response

    This whitepaper provides an overview and understanding of ransomware and how to successfully combat it.

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.