Raymond Michael Rodden was bored this week, so he drove to downtown Phoenix and began walking around, snapping photos of the federal courthouse and the state capitol with his iPhone.
The 33-year-old man ended up jailed, unemployed and homeless; his iPhone, iPad and Macintosh laptop confiscated as “evidence.”
All because they found it odd he was taking photos at 3 a.m.
“They told me they’re going to keep my computer because they want to see my search history,” he said Saturday evening in a telephone interview with Photography is Not a Crime.
“They wanted to know if I belonged to any extremist groups like the national socialist movement or sovereign citizens. They wanted to know what kind of books I checked out of the library.”
However, the only charges pending against him, if you even want to call them charges, are citations that he walked into an alley – a bogus charge that applies only to motorized vehicles – and that he neglected to change the address on his driver license after moving to Phoenix from Tucson last August.
They couldn’t even keep him jailed on the initial charge of an outdated warrant out of California because the San Obispo County Sheriff’s Office did not want to bother extraditing him from Phoenix.
“The warrant was not even valid in Arizona,” adding that it was over a probation violation for unlawful use of a vehicle, stemming from a 2001 incident in which he took his roommate’s car without permission after a heated argument.
That old roommate is still one of his best friends, allowing him to stay in his Tucson home after he was kicked out of the Phoenix home that was part of his employment.
“I was living in my boss’s house taking care of his son,” he said. “Now he thinks I’m some crazy person.”
The fact that the Phoenix police bomb squad tore his boss’s car apart searching for explosives before impounding it most likely convinced him that Rodden was not the most suitable person to care for his six-year-old son as he worked as a long-distance truck driver.
“The most radical thing I do is read Photography is Not a Crime and Cop Block,” he said.
So like most people who read those sites, he knows his rights when it comes to dealing with police.
And that is exactly why he is going through this ordeal.
It started Thursday at 3 a.m. when he was sitting at home, unable to sleep. He decided to drive to downtown in his boss’s car, which he had permission to do.
He parked the car in front of the Phoenix Police Department and began walking around downtown, which is a ghost town at that time.
This is particularly insane.
But there was nothing extraordinary about what Verizon Wireless apparently did. Hundreds of thousands of times every year, cellphone companies turn over personal call records to law enforcement with neither a warning nor a judge’s involvement. Privacy activists said it’s no way for carriers to treat paying customers. They said they hope the AP controversy will force the big cell companies to change their ways.
“This is the phone companies putting the interest of law enforcement before their customers, and that’s wrong,” said Christopher Soghoian, principal technologist for the American Civil Liberties Union. “None of them tell users. They all suck.”
I love just how direct Chris is these days when speaking with the press about the telcos and their utterly abhorrent practices.
For anyone curious about (some of) the absurdity concerning policing in BC, this is a must read. Rob continues to do excellent work investigating the lack of accountability in the governance of BC authorities, this time showing how the police continue to do end-runs around access requests pertaining to their lobbying activities.
Although some of the core supporters of that group are prone to violence and criminal behaviour, Catt has never been convicted of criminal conduct in connections to the demonstrations he attended. Nonetheless, Catt’s personal information was held on the National Domestic Extremism Database that is maintained by the National Public Order Intelligence Unit. The information held on him included his name, age, description of his appearance and his history of attending political demonstrations. The police had retained a photograph of Mr Catt but it had been destroyed since it was deemed to be unnecessary. The information was accessible to members of the police who engage in investigations on “Smash EDO”.
In the ruling the Court of Appeal departs from earlier judgments by mentioning that the “reasonable expectation of privacy” is not the only factor to take into account in determining whether an individual’s Article 8 (1) right has been infringed. In surveying ECtHR case law, the Court noted that it is also important to check whether personal data has been subjected to systematic processing and if it is entered in a database. The rationale to include consideration of the latter two categories is that in this way authorities can recover information by reference to a particular person. Therefore, “the processing and retention of even publicly available information may involve an interference with the subject’s article 8 rights.” Since in the case of Catt, personal data was retained and ready to be processed, the Court found a violation of Article 8 (1) that requires justification.
Carolin Moeller, “Peaceful Protester’s personal data removed from extremism database”
The removal of Mr. Catt’s data from these databases is a significant victory for him and all those involved in fighting for citizens’ rights. However, the case acts as a clear lens through which we can see how certain facets of the state are actively involved in pseudo-criminalizing dissent: you’re welcome to say or do anything, so long as you’re prepared to be placed under perpetual state suspicion.
It’s been widely reported that the DEA San Jose office is unable to conduct surveillance of Apple iMessages. The note is revealing in its very phrasing; the author(s) state that:
While it is impossible to intercept iMessages between two Apple devices, iMessages between an Apple device and a non-Apple device are transmitted as Short Message Service (SMS) messages and can sometimes be intercepted, depending on where the intercept is placed. The outcome seems to be more successful if the intercept is placed on the non-Apple device. (emphasis added)
Note that despite the ‘encryption’ the agent(s) recognize that they can sometimes intercept messages. Importantly they are ‘more successful’ when the intercept is on the non-Apple device. Their phrasing suggests one of the following:
- Authorities are occasionally able to intercept messages between Apple devices; or
- Authorities are occasionally able to intercept messages that are inbound to an Apple device that are sent from a non-Apple device.
Either situation is interesting, insofar as the former raises questions of the efficacy of Apple’s encryption process and the latter questions about where a tap is placed pre-encryption in the Apple network.
More broadly, however, the challenge facing the DEA is one that is already encountered by investigators around the world. In fact, the DEA is in a pretty envious position: most of the major ‘messaging’ companies have some degree of corporate presence in the US and can thus be easily served with a wiretap order. Sure, a host of orders might need to be issued (one to Apple, one to Facebook, one to Google, etc etc) but this is a possible course of action.
Officers outside of the US that want similar access to messages that flow outside of SMS channels experience a different reality. They tend to need a MLAT or other cross-national warrant might be needed. Such warrants are incredibly time consuming and, as a result, resource intensive. These kinds of pressures are, in part, responsible for the uptick in discussions around state agents serving malware to mobile and fixed computing systems: it just isn’t practical to ‘wiretap’ many of these communications anymore, on the basis that the companies running the services are beyond the authorities’ jurisdictions.
So, while encryption is (fortunately) becoming more and more common, this isn’t necessarily the ‘solution’ to third-parties intercepting communications. Indeed, all it means is that attackers (in this case, the state) are targeting the far softer domains of the communications infrastructure: everything around the encryption layer itself.