As the ACLU made clear this week via its records dump on police mobile phone tracking nationwide, law enforcement has a keen interest in spying on us by way of our cellular phones. And it's no wonder: as this NTI Law Enforcement Systems and Services cellular phone investigations manual says,
Cellular phones have become the virtual biographer of our daily activities. It tracks who we talk to and where we are. It will log calls, take pictures and keep our contact list close at hand. In short it has become an indispensible piece of evidence in a criminal investigation.
The guide instructs police in the most effective procedures through which to obtain the most information possible from cell phone companies about suspects (and others). Among the different kinds of data it advises police ask for are:
The last item is shocking. It basically means that police can request from telephone companies subscriber information connected to every single phone that was in a physical location at a specific time. So if you are in the vicinity of a crime but have no idea what's going on next door, don't be surprised if you get a visit from the police. (Note to activists: leave your phone at home if you think you'll be in the vicinity of any property or other crimes.)
The manual also looks at procedures for accessing information stored on mobile phones themselves. When it comes to iPhones and other smartphones, police and prosecutors can fish quite a lot of data out of them, including:
As countless live-streamed rebellions over the past year have shown us, technology has liberatory potential. But be careful. Your phone is watching you, too.