back to article US cops go all Minority Report: Google told to cough up info on anyone near a crime scene

Efforts to track down criminals in the US state of North Carolina have laid bare a dangerous gap in the law over the use of location data. Raleigh police went to court at least three times last year and got a warrant requiring Google to share the details of any users that were close to crime scenes during specific times and …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    US law is a corrupt joke...

    ... and the rest of the world is laughing at you.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: US law is a corrupt joke...

      The UK security services have demanded access to the travel data for the 17million Londoners who use their payment card. So that "patterns of behavior" can be observed.

      Hope you don't get the same train as a Brazilian

      1. Tom 38 Silver badge

        Re: US law is a corrupt joke...

        Honest question: do you consider the data held/acquired by the police and the data held/acquired by the security services as equivalent?

        The point of the security services is to get data that other people have, secretly, in order to do things relating to the security of the country. Are we saying they shouldn't get that data, and if they don't get that extra, secret, illegal data, should they even exist?

      2. Stu Mac

        Re: US law is a corrupt joke...

        Eric Honecker couldn't even dream of the surveillance police state that the UK has become. Be why I live in Ireland then.

    2. fidodogbreath Silver badge

      Re: US law is a corrupt joke...

      Don't assume that you are somehow immune to this -- no matter what country you live in. If the data exists and government thinks it would be useful, they will create the legal or semi-legal means to allow them to get it.

    3. Jamie Jones Silver badge

      Re: US law is a corrupt joke...

      .. and the rest of the world is laughing at you.

      I'm not laughing. I get concerned and pissed off when I hear of things like this happening in America, like I'd hope most Americans reading this would be when it's the same sort of bullshit affecting us in the UK.

      Sure, I may ridicule Trump and co. but I'm not laughing at Americans, and they are welcome to ridicule our carcrash of politics too!

  2. Mark 85 Silver badge

    This is not a good thing. Maybe if they pinpointed the area even tighter but still... they're casting a wide net and either evidence can be doctored, fabricated, or just plain misinterpreted can put a lot of innocent people at risk. As we approach the 1984 level of civilian surveillance here in the US and other "free world" countries, I think we have a lot to fear.

    1. LucreLout Silver badge

      This is not a good thing. Maybe if they pinpointed the area even tighter but still... they're casting a wide net and either evidence can be doctored, fabricated, or just plain misinterpreted can put a lot of innocent people at risk.

      It has greater rammifications than the article discusses.

      Police could potentially use the technology to identify possible and 'definite' witnesses to a crime, and prosecutors could then apply pressure to obtain testimony against crimes that might not have been given voluntarily - do you really want to put yourself and family at risk of reprisals in cases where, for example, one wannabe gangster batters another wannabe gangster?

      There are so many varying situations where a witness may choose not to come forward, either for their own safety, or community standing, etc, which raises an interesting dynamic between a victims right to have a crime solved and a witnesses right to not come forward.

    2. Tigra 07 Silver badge
      Big Brother

      RE: Mark

      Technology in some areas has gone far beyond what George Orwell predicted. I believe if he were with us today he'd be absolutely horrified how close his book is to reality.

      1. TechnicalBen Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: RE: RE: Tigra 07

        1984 or BRAZIL?

        Yes, this is very much a two edged sword. Both benefits, and amazingly dangerously harmful.

        What if someone borrows a phone? What if (as Facebook evidently know how to, or other agencies), they trace it to you via your unique walk cycle/gyro feedback?

        What if the data says one thing, but you know the data is wrong. How would an individual prove it in court?

        1. Adam 52 Silver badge

          Re: RE: RE: Tigra 07

          Introducing doubt (not negative proof) into the prosecution evidence of where you were has been part of a defence's job since Cain. It's not a new thing.

          Mobile phone location has been used since dumb mobile phones.

          Tracking by similar journey is published academic research, not private to Facebook. I'm not aware of any prosecution using it.

        2. Stu Mac

          Re: RE: RE: Tigra 07

          I don't see that is is very different from CCTV, particularly with facial recognition applied.

          There is also a very simple opt out, turn phone off or place in flight mode when not in use.

          Note that your newer EU car is also now tracking you, although they say the emergency call system is not tracking you it's a SIM. It's tracking you!!

          1. DougS Silver badge

            Re: RE: RE: Tigra 07

            It is very different from CCTV because few cities in the US are covered by public CCTV systems the way London and other large UK cities are. Sure, there may be a fair number of private systems, but the police don't have access to them unless they ask each individual business owner - who may be willing to help out for a major Boston bomber level crime but if police do it for every crime that may have had a suspect pass by they will quickly tire of all the work and tell the cops to get a warrant.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not one to take the G-Men's side very often, but within tight limits...

    If there is an active investigation, it seems like allowing the police to provide a specific query to a carrier or provider to identify who in the area A) might be a witness, or B) might be a person of interest. I don't know if I am willing to entertain that for all potential crimes or infractions, but it seems like for crimes of the level of murder, physical or sexual assault, or armed robbery it's a valid investigative tool. Not real exited about them requesting location info to find out who's dog is crapping on Ms Jones lawn.

    Either way, I think that there should be forced transparency, requiring the carrier/provider to disclose both aggregated statistics, and notify all the specific individuals that were caught up in the dragnet(obviously after they are interviewed, cleared, or are going to trial).

    I'd still be nervous sanctioning these tools, as without both transparency and oversight a bad actor could abuse this pretty badly. They could use trivial or trumped up charges to keep a permanent search box over other targets, or target witnesses of police misconduct like whistle-blowers and journalists.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Not one to take the G-Men's side very often, but within tight limits...

      I think that there should be forced transparency,

      Then there would simply be a special national security exemption on all searches for terrorists / journalists / protesters / people who don't pick up dog mess

    2. GrumpyOldBloke

      Re: Not one to take the G-Men's side very often, but within tight limits...

      Are the cops after the culprits or are they after anyone with evidence that might detract from the official narrative.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not one to take the G-Men's side very often, but within tight limits...

      it was not too long back that local councils were given powers for covert surveillance to aid in the war or terror...

      The powers they were then given was abused by councils to catch people renting a second home to get the kids into a better school than the local failing dump on the doorstep.

      1. Sherminator

        Re: Not one to take the G-Men's side very often, but within tight limits...

        True that! Can't beat a good old Council getting ideas above their station!

        You can bet your bottom dollar that any powers given, will be stretched to the point of abuse by any power wielding body.

        Transparency, accountability and oversight is needed at all points.

    4. Robert Helpmann?? Silver badge
      Headmaster

      Re: Not one to take the G-Men's side very often, but within tight limits...

      Everything in the article points to the use of tools and methods that are, at least on the face of it, already established and legitimate. There should be no controversy in requiring a warrant to gain this information and it should be considered worth noting that the information was brought to the attention of the public through legal means rather than extralegal. I certainly have no illusions that these methods cannot or will not be misused, but that in and of itself does not mean that it is wrong that they exist, just that they should used appropriately and that the public should have a right to be informed about their use and hold the ultimate power over it.

      Here's the rub: the public that should be paying attention, caring about how this plays out, and has the most to lose through its abuse is the same public that is willing to give away all their rights for a few shiny baubles granted by Facebook, Google, et al. This is a problem of human nature and behavior, not of tools, laws or rights. It does not inspire confidence.

      Also, this:

      The first crime was the murder... the second an arson attack... the third, sexual battery... suggesting that the police force is using the approach to discover potentially incriminating evidence for increasingly less serious crimes.

      Sorry, what?! Besides the awkward phrasing of ever increasing lessening (Updecreasingness? Superungrowing? How about "decreasingly"? ), all three of these crimes are all very serious. Nothing in the statement suggested that the police were in fact abusing their powers in these cases to go after significantly lesser crimes, only that the very real potential was there. That's the difference between "is" and "could". I tend not to criticize the articles themselves here on El Reg, but this was a lapse in logic and rigor of reporting that I am highlighting as a curmudgeonly service. Please feel free to down-vote. It is better than kicking a puppy though both activities may be monitored by the State.

    5. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      Re: Not one to take the G-Men's side very often, but within tight limits...

      Flatly, I do not trust the ethics of too many local Stasis and their state and feral counterparts, All sorts of problems with this. Not only do you have the perp and possible witnesses but a lot of people who know absolutely nothing of the crime. The fact one might have in theoretical eye sight of the crime does not mean you were looking in that direction or heard it.

    6. JohnFen Silver badge

      Re: Not one to take the G-Men's side very often, but within tight limits...

      If law enforcement were trustworthy enough, I'd agree with with you. But they're not, so I don't.

      But I think the most egregious part of this is the gag order. They should not be allowed for wide-net data collections like this.

      1. Phil W

        Re: Not one to take the G-Men's side very often, but within tight limits...

        "But I think the most egregious part of this is the gag order. They should not be allowed for wide-net data collections like this."

        The problem is that without the gag order the search becomes pointless. If Google tell a murder suspect they've just given the police his location at the time of the murder he's going to be off to another country faster than you can say accessory after the fact.

        While I'm not totally comfortable with warrants like this it does seem reasonable to catch perpetrators of violent crime. Theft, criminal damage and other such crimes of harm to property do not warrant such sweeping invasions of privacy, but violent crime most certainly does.

        1. JohnFen Silver badge

          Re: Not one to take the G-Men's side very often, but within tight limits...

          I understand the rationale, and as distasteful as it is, I can even go along with it if the gag is actually for a very limited time and only applies to a small number of people. But if you're gathering info about lots of people -- such as everyone who happened to be in a particular region regardless of whether or not they're suspects -- I have serious issues with that. I don't think that it's justifiable, even for violent crimes.

    7. art guerrilla

      Re: Not one to take the G-Men's side very often, but within tight limits...

      damn right, these koppers are so-o-o-o handcuffed in what they can do, and always face enormous repercussions when they do the silliest, minor transgressions of -you know- rights, and laws and archaic stuff like that...

      .

      in fact, why there isn't an immediate 10 mile radius cordon put around all crime scenes where everyone is preemptively tasered and interrogated is beyond me... just being -you know- safe...

      .

      how naive can you be ? AS IF the donut eaters and spooks ACTUALLY FOLLOW the laws and restrictions they are supposed to follow already ? ? ? geez, i hate outing authoritarians, but someone has to do it...

      .

      you can always tell bubble people who color within the lines and wonder what is wrong with wanting the trains running on time...

      .

      (*sigh*, here's the answer, bubblehead: there is nothing wrong with wanting the trains to run on time, it is the despot who enacts all the horror to make it so that is the problem...)

    8. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not one to take the G-Men's side very often, but within tight limits...

      “I'd still be nervous sanctioning these tools, as without both transparency and oversight a bad actor could abuse this pretty badly.”

      Not only that, but even if they only have the purest intentions it’s not exactly impossible to imagine a data leak outside a specific investigation - so, before sanctioning this kind of data use, maybe the court should insist on named officers only, on isolated equipment, and treating as contempt any attempt or effort to use the data obtained for anything other than investigating the specific offence for which the warrant was granted, making the named officers personally responsible (and liable) for ensuring the data are not available to anyone who is not named in the warrant.

      I have the feeling the Cambridge Analytica stuff is going to lead to all sorts of backlash, even against perfectly reasonable uses of “big data” or “analytics”, without these sorts of issues on top ..... when you add the idiocy of individual US judges deciding they have jurisdiction over EU citizens’ data held in the EU ....

      1. JohnFen Silver badge

        Re: Not one to take the G-Men's side very often, but within tight limits...

        "I have the feeling the Cambridge Analytica stuff is going to lead to all sorts of backlash, even against perfectly reasonable uses of “big data” or “analytics”"

        I sure hope so. As I've been saying for years -- any use of data about me that I haven't been made aware of and agreed to is unreasonable use -- particularly if that data is being combined with other data in large databases and then mined.

  4. Charles 9 Silver badge

    Well, it seems the cops can't win. Since crimes like murder are irreversible, people will ALWAYS clamor to get the criminals BEFORE they commit their crimes (after all, THEY could be next, and they consider a few murders too high a price to pay for civilization) since after the fact is just too damn late. How does the police deal with all the anguished outcries of, "Why didn't you get them sooner?!" when "We're doing the best you let us" is NOT an acceptable answer?

    1. JcRabbit

      Well, even more surveillance is not the answer. We are ALREADY living in a world that could turn into George Orwell's 1984 at the flip of a simple switch. And don't you think it would never happen, because it WILL.

      CCTV cameras everywhere, our whole lives, thoughts and opinions can be tracked via social media, our movements and current location tracked by the GPS on our phones, our secret and most intimate web searches (porn, eheh) tracked by our OS and browsers, 24/7 listening devices in our own homes (Alexa, Echo, etc...) put there BY US, and we are already being brainwashed/limited in what to think and what to say by political correctness.

      We have been slowly but steadily giving up all our freedoms and rights in exchange for a bit of (illusionary) security. And as B.Franklin wrote, "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."

      If you can't see the writing on the wall and the terrible potential risk we're already under, then you're blind as a bat. In truth, if it ever happens, we will fully deserve it for failing to react when we still could - even a stupid OS is pushing us to the limit and STILL we don't fight back!

      Do you know what would have happened just a few years ago if people even suspected the OS *might* be phoning home? A full riot. These days, when we actually know *for sure* that the OS is actually spying on us?! Not so much as a whimper.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        To which I ask Mr. Franklin, "What happens, then, when you find out that the ONLY way to get ANY form of safety, full stop, is to give up your liberties? Are you then willing to posit that civilization as you know it is doomed to failure?"

        Because it's becoming more and more the case that things are polarizing such that it's going to become all or nothing.

        "Do you know what would have happened just a few years ago if people even suspected the OS *might* be phoning home? A full riot."

        To which I respond, "ORLY?" CCTV is NOT new technology, yet I never saw riots in the streets over them. I've never seen people literally DIE rather than fall under someone else's gaze a la Patrick Henry's quote, "Give me liberty or give me death." IOW, I think the Founding Fathers grossly overestimated the average human being.

        1. GrumpyOldBloke

          To which Mr Franklin would reply that to have reached that point then you have already surrendered most of your liberties in exchange for fantasies that the state can or will offer you protection.

          In any popular tabloid any criticism of the police is inevitably met with a response - when you need the police to protect you. The problem of course is that the police do not offer this service, at least not to Joe Public. The social contract between the government and the governed has long been broken and one sided. Further erosion of the rights of the governed will not make the government any more competent or any more interested in protecting you in your time of need.

          1. Charles 9 Silver badge

            "The social contract between the government and the governed has long been broken and one sided."

            Then civilization was broken long ago and the unwashed masses prefer the police state. Sounds like the game was over long ago since someone among the government's going to be willing to Kill Em All if they're about to lose.

          2. Adam 52 Silver badge

            "when you need the police to protect you. The problem of course is that the police do not offer this service, at least not to Joe Public. "

            I know it was a long way back in the thread, but I feel the need to call out this utter twaddle. The Police are not your personal servants, turning up whenever you have a disagreement with someone, but they do protect you. A quick look at the news today shows a dangerous driver arrested, a bombing investigated (a long time ago), an investigation into possibly dangerous housing, a child rapist convicted and a suspected child killer arrested.

            All of those helping to protect Joe Public.

            It also has significant criticism of West Midlands police for failing to stop something they knew nothing about. Maybe we should place all children under 24/7 big brother coverage by the Police because parents can't be bothered to find out who their 14 year old is shagging and want to blame anyone but themselves.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Safety from giving up liberty is not safety. The difference between a violation of safety and a violation of liberty is whether the perpetrator works for the government.

          1. Alistair Silver badge

            @Mycho:

            "Safety from giving up liberty is not safety. The difference between a violation of safety and a violation of liberty is whether the perpetrator works for the government. "

            Ahhhh, I'm not so sure about that - - you might want to ask a stalking victim, or an ex cult member about that definition....

        3. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge
          Trollface

          I'm with Charles in that I dont think throwing every technical advantage that we could give the police and other security forces out of the window because they arnt sensible enough to use properly is a good idea.

          To me the advantages of security and crime prevention totally outweigh your vague paranoid rambling about "1984". Seriously there must be some way we can stop a government turning us into slaves (or whatever it is you're tinfoil hatting about) other than tieing their hands to make them impotent and useless at security?

          I know! how about we give everyone in the country a gun so we can rise up if they try anything?

        4. JohnFen Silver badge

          "What happens, then, when you find out that the ONLY way to get ANY form of safety, full stop, is to give up your liberties?"

          I would argue that's an impossible choice -- without liberty, safety is impossible. The most you can do by removing liberty is shift which group of criminals are more likely to victimize you.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Protect Yourself

        1) Stop using Google for as much as possible

        2) Stop telling the world whay you are going to do on Social Media

        3) Lie when asked to fill in a survey. Give totally wrong information about yourself including use wrong but valid addresses

        4) Disable GPS on your phone when you don't need it.

        5) Stop using the Satnav for a 5 min drive to Tesco's/ASDA's. You know the way.

        6) Shred or preferably burn every bit of paper that has your address on it rather than just throwing it away in Recycling.

        7) Do the same to all those shop receipts where you paid by Card or say Apple Pay.

        There are many, many more things you can do to keep yourself out of the spotlight but basically stop making it easy for {redacted} to observe you and finagle their way into your life..

        Careless Talk and Actions can come back to hurt you big time.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: Protect Yourself

          "1) Stop using Google for as much as possible"

          Google uses you even when you don't use it. Unless you're a complete and total hermit out of site of even land-photography planes and satellites, the moment someone on Google identifies you, you're already screwed.

          "2) Stop telling the world whay you are going to do on Social Media"

          Like (1), your friends will do it for you.

          "3) Lie when asked to fill in a survey. Give totally wrong information about yourself including use wrong but valid addresses"

          Great, give the government and demographics firms a reason to pay you a personal visit instead. They can tell if you're lying. Ever heard of the Panda-B test?

          "4) Disable GPS on your phone when you don't need it."

          You know GPS is PASSIVE. You can use it without sending information back as long as you use a passive device.

          "5) Stop using the Satnav for a 5 min drive to Tesco's/ASDA's. You know the way."

          Not necessarily if they keep closing different roads every day.

          "6) Shred or preferably burn every bit of paper that has your address on it rather than just throwing it away in Recycling."

          One, people have shown enough patience to intercept and put trash back together a la jigsaw puzzles. Two, if you're THAT paranoid, you need to fear the Postal Service, which means you're already too late to shred, as they recorded the information before your mail ever got to you.

          "7) Do the same to all those shop receipts where you paid by Card or say Apple Pay."

          What about the STORE COPIES? Now you want us to break and enter into the stores to shread THOSE copies, too?

          "There are many, many more things you can do to keep yourself out of the spotlight but basically stop making it easy for {redacted} to observe you and finagle their way into your life.."

          Too late. It's already too easy to spy on you if they wish without any action on your part. Basically, to interact with society in any significant way, you WILL be profiled. It's the price of civilization. Think it's too high? Then you're an anarchist, plain and simple.

          "Careless Talk and Actions can come back to hurt you big time."

          ANY Talk and action can come back to hurt you...fatally, even. The whole "Give me six lines" business.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: You know GPS is PASSIVE.

            you're right. And wrong. Right about the gps, but wrong about the gps. Recently, I did find another f(...) google setting, PRE-TICKED on my phone, that mumbled something about helping to navigate even with the gps off (it was related to a-gps, but buried somewhere else, possibly in 3G settings.

          2. tiggity Silver badge

            Re: Protect Yourself

            @Charles 9

            In reply to "2) Stop telling the world what you are going to do on Social Media"

            You said "Like (1), your friends will do it for you."

            The solution to this is to have friends who don't use social media.. such people do exist

            1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

              Re: Protect Yourself

              Jeez , Once I've added that to the friendship agreement.doc , I'm hardly going to have any friends left!

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Protect Yourself

            Let me add my take on this.

            If criminals are aware that their phone gives off their location when committing a crime they will leave their phone at home. Therefore you have just enabled tracking of the population for no reason, sure you may be able to identify witnesses but at the end of the day if they didn't report it there and then or stick around then they aren't exactly going to want to co-operate or they would have done it at the time.

            Lets say we run out of power, not totally unbelievable. We then have "power protests" because some people have electricity (the well off) and some people don't (that's what smart meters are for). Do you think this won't be used to stop peaceful protest or identify dissenters so they can be rounded up?

            The government we have now and their objectives may not be the same as future governments so no I don't think this is a good idea at all.

            1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

              Re: Protect Yourself

              "If criminals are aware that their phone gives off their location when committing a crime they will leave their phone at home"

              Yeah , only the *reeeeeelly* smart ones would do that. The rest of them havent learned to stop boasting about their misdemeanors on facebook yet.

              plus at least you could find witnesses.

              If i were in charge (read: ruling with the iron fist of a dictator) I'd have anyone found guilty of anything in court wearing a trackable ankle gizmo 24/7 for a year.

            2. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

              Re: Protect Yourself

              "The government we have now and their objectives may not be the same as future governments"

              The crux of this debate is how can the government maintain law and order if we dont let them maintain law and order because we dont trust them not to turn into a mass murdering dictator?

              ...answers on a postcard please. or use the reply button whichevers easier.

          4. JohnFen Silver badge

            Re: Protect Yourself

            "Like (1), your friends will do it for you."

            Not mine. In my crowd, it is considered almost criminally rude to out people on social media like that. If I had a friend who did this after my complaining to them about it, I'd stop associating with them.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Protect Yourself

          1) Google shows me at home when I use them since with my present responsibilities that is where I am about 23 hours per day.

          2) Difficult one this as I cannot stop using (anti)social media since I never started its use in the first place.

          3) Likewise, if and it is a big IF I am asked about something relevant I would possibly answer as it is in my interests, otherwise for junk surveys junk answers are fine as are nil responses.

          4) GPS is a useful diary when I do take a mentally disturbed person out, I just wish the tracking would not show me driving across fields, through hedges, walls and building and fording deep rivers in a 12 year old car.

          5) Satnav takes too long to program and sets off unstable person so rarely used.

          6) All confidential and semi confidential papers are already shredded and composted - it severely limits reconstruction of the papers. This includes shop receipts, etc. This is to prevent data abuse by those with light fingers.

          Do please note that expenditure patterns are already known i.e. what and where you spend it on anyway. The credit reference agencies love such data, HMRC are also partial to know if expenditure matches with income from similar sources they do not need dumpster diving. However, (anti)social media can be very useful to know on what you are splashing out the dosh.

          Anonymous because of personal references already known by those with a need to know

          1. Barry Rueger

            Re: Protect Yourself

            2) Difficult one this as I cannot stop using (anti)social media since I never started its use in the first place.

            I'm always amused by the people who post claims like this to an on-line forum.

            Or think that posting AC will necessarily prevent them from being identified.

        3. naive

          Re: Protect Yourself

          Protect yourself by not engaging in criminal acts is even a better advice.

          It is amazing so many people are criticizing US law enforcement practices used for solving major crimes like murder. In case somebody is making the mistake of committing such a crime carrying an active phone, it could provide a critical piece of information to solve it. The law can be as effective as we want it to be, maybe in civilized countries it should be the objective of law enforcement to get access to all the means it can get to solve capital crimes, and not give murderers and rapists the opportunity to make more victims because a few worry about their privacy.

          1. pɹɐʍoɔ snoɯʎuouɐ
            Big Brother

            Re: Protect Yourself

            "Protect yourself by not engaging in criminal acts is even a better advice."

            That is indeed the start... but this is not so much about the solving of crime. If it was just a matter of slurping up the data, searching for gps data that puts a person in the same location at the same time as a victim of crime, then going for a little chat with that person is one thing. Great, perfect use of the slurp of data,

            But that's not how its going to be used...

            sooner or later, the government is going to (if they have not already) going to have a file on everyone and every bit of your day to day life will be recorded, from what time you had breakfast to what time you took your last piss of the day and match you up to pre-defined profiles to see if you are the type of person that would object to the governments next move... and then make sure you dont....

          2. Jamie Jones Silver badge

            Re: Protect Yourself

            "By the way, Mr/Ms naive, when we were investigating that murder over on West side, we noticed you spent a couple of hours at The blue oyster bar. LOL. Does the wife know?"

            1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

              Re: Protect Yourself

              " we noticed you spent a couple of hours at The blue oyster bar. LOL. Does the wife know?"

              Finally!

              A solid example why tracking *may* be bad . Thats 2 now , lets do the list

              1) Vague paranoid rambling about 1984 society

              2) Blackmail via corruption

              oh and 3) Corrupt government using this power to crush all those who oppose them - or is that the same as 1) ?

          3. JohnFen Silver badge

            Re: Protect Yourself

            "Protect yourself by not engaging in criminal acts is even a better advice."

            If that were actually sufficient protection, then there would be a whole lot less pushback when it comes to giving the police even more power than they have now.

        4. pɹɐʍoɔ snoɯʎuouɐ
          Coat

          Re: Protect Yourself

          Yes, thats all well and good when you limit your access to the "grid" and doing what you can to limit your exposure to unwanted eyes...

          BUT...

          When you do things like that, then you paint a target on yourself for a little sit down in room 101 to explain why you are protecting your privacy...

          It was cold last week with the beast from the east, but would you dare walk into the local bank to withdraw some cash with a balaclava keeping your face warm........

          now let me check my pockets before someone else does....

        5. Roj Blake Silver badge

          Re: Protect Yourself

          "7) Do the same to all those shop receipts where you paid by Card or say Apple Pay."

          8) Use cash wherever possible.

      3. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

        ""Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."

        And now Americans have a country flooded with weapons, so they have Liberty but not safety.

        Mission accomplished i guess, but other countries would argue that they too have achieved liberty without giving every redneck a rifle.

        1. JohnFen Silver badge

          "so they have Liberty but not safety."

          And our stockpile of Liberty is being rapidly depleted.

  5. Kaltern

    Let's be fair, the only real issue most people have with privacy is the fact data is used to make money. It isn't really about the police investigators, who wish to use every possible method to catch a crook. Why should it really matter if my phone just happened to be taking a picture at exactly the same time a woman was raped, and my picture inadvertantly snapped the perp's face or clothing, and via data stored by Google about my poossible whereabouts, the police are able to see this picture and use it to catch them - without me needing to know anything about it?

    People should be more concerned about the fact advertisers know virtually everything about what you wear, how you smell, what you do, where you go and what you eat - and THAT information you give out willingly, on a daily basis.

    We're not really in a dystopian society. We just feel like we are sometimes because we're told we are by the media. Regardless of how carefuly people are - you can lose your wallet, or give the wrong people personal information - and have your ID theived. This isn't new, nor is it a result of CCTV. It's human negligence, and human greed. Orwell's vision of the future is a not-so-nice thing. But we're not there, and if we ever get there, it's highly likely we allowed it.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      The problem becomes when they dovetail together: when the government and big business become intertwined together. Recall the Gilded Age when the robber barons and the like had enough power to influence governments. So you can't overlook either one.

      As for Orwellian society, I think the Founding Fathers grossly overestimated the intelligence of the average human, who seems to prefer life in slavery to freedom in death.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        re: The gilded age

        Recall the Gilded Age when the robber barons and the like had enough power to influence governments.

        We are still living in one especially if you live in Trumpistan. The 'orange one' is really doing what the Koch Brothers and the rest of American 'Big Oil' want him to.

        Support Global Warming? You're Fired!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      People should be more concerned about the fact advertisers know virtually everything about what you wear, how you smell, what you do, where you go and what you eat - and THAT information you give out willingly, on a daily basis.

      What types of ads would you like us to display? [Select Movies, games, books, computer, and no shampoo.] Next day, I got 5 of the same shampoo ads.

      Thanks advertisers for knowing virtually everything. /s

      And they wonder why I no longer give out info on a daily basis.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        They don't about YOU they know about a person that google will refer to you as a GUID.

        Subtle but very significant difference.

        1. pɹɐʍoɔ snoɯʎuouɐ
          Big Brother

          "They don't about YOU they know about a person that google will refer to you as a GUID.

          Subtle but very significant difference."

          Ahhh bless you and your naivety. so GUID: 54645435346474232343 is located at gps coordinates 51.3417 -2.5800 between the hours of 11pm to 7am every night is probably lives there..... and when the email address on that same handset is registers to Facebook account Mr F Giles and has lots of pictures of tractors, you can guess he is a farmer... so, you have a name, address, phone number, date of birth, occupation, likes, dislikes, possible political views.....

          its easy to link a name to a GUID...

          There is a lot of info around on how its impossible to completely anonymise data

        2. JohnFen Silver badge

          I don't think that's a significant difference at all, given that it's pretty easy to reassociate that GUID to your identity if you enlist the services of Big Data.

    3. Guus Leeuw

      Dear Sir,

      the problem is, in fact, not so much with the police finding out your whereabouts at the time indicated in the warrant. The problem is, I would suppose, much more with the police having a lot of data that they have no obligation to delete after the criminal case was finished. So they hold this data forever. Which, in itself, is not a problem. However, as happens so often, since they are holding that data (albeit for a very singular purpose), somebody else (even within the police) might use that data for a whole different case / cause, and thereby simply misusing the data, the warrant and the system.

      CCTV to keep us secure, fair enough, catch the thief. But do not use that footage to go after people that don't pick up dog poo.

      As with any data, the access rights should be farily tightly controlled, however that is still a non-consideration for most people in the enforcing and judging branches of government.

      Regards,

      Guus

      1. LucreLout Silver badge

        But do not use that footage to go after people that don't pick up dog poo.

        I guess your prespective on that problem is rather dependant on whether you own the dog, or the lawn.

        The main issue with someone determining what they think is a serious enough crime to warrant use of CCTV footage, is that consideration will vary extensively from person to person. Who gets to decide what is and isn't serious enough? And why them?

      2. pɹɐʍoɔ snoɯʎuouɐ
        Holmes

        "But do not use that footage to go after people that don't pick up dog poo."**

        A criminal act is a criminal act.

        If you can find and prosecute someone for leaving a health hazard in the street then do it, catching criminals is correct use of the surveillance equipment.

        Data gathering to put the citizens in a profile group is another,,,

        ** maybe if one of your neighbours was letting the dog shit outside your door every day and not cleaning it up you would feel different when the local council refuse to do anything because your word is not good enough for enforcement.,.

        1. Bernard M. Orwell

          "A criminal act is a criminal act."

          Except when its not a criminal act and is instead a civil infringement such as littering, parking poorly, or letting your dog crap on the pavement. Civil infringements attract fines levied via a magistrate. Criminal acts involve going to court and standing before judge and jury.

          Source: https://www.inbrief.co.uk/legal-system/difference-between-civil-criminal-law/

          Its worth *every citizen* understanding this difference.

    4. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

      "If you give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest of men, I will find something in them which will hang him." - Cardinal Richelieu

    5. JohnFen Silver badge

      "We just feel like we are sometimes because we're told we are by the media."

      I disagree. I can't speak for anyone else, of course, but I think that we're dangerously close to a dystopia because of what I see being done around me, not because of the media.

  6. Winkypop Silver badge
    Big Brother

    C'mon guys, we are all guilty of something!

    It's just a matter of what.

    If unsure, wait where you are while your betters construct some new laws....

    1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

      Re: C'mon guys, we are all guilty of something!

      Calm down Vimes.

  7. tempemeaty
    Big Brother

    Third World in weird a way

    I've sometimes refer to the US as the worlds most powerful 3rd world country. Living here is getting scarier every day.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Third World in weird a way

      "Living here is getting scarier every day."

      I consider that, but I also travel. As bad as the US is, many places elsewhere are still worse. For example, many places do not protect basic rights such as freedom of speech. Consider the concept of Lèse-majesté. At least Americans are free to insult the President. In many other places, it's a capital offense.

      1. DropBear Silver badge

        Re: Third World in weird a way

        Being able to freely insult the powers that be is not quite useless, but it's a "comfort" so ludicrously thin it absolutely doesn't warrant an "at least". It's also quite likely an illusion, as anyone in the habit of doing it too often is likely to end up finding out, if they manage to do it to any kind of significant effect. As for the other case, see first sentence.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Third World in weird a way

        > At least Americans are free to insult the President.

        But not free from prosecution as a result:

        J20 protests: All you need to know about the nearly 200 people facing 60 years in jail for protesting Trump

      3. JohnFen Silver badge

        Re: Third World in weird a way

        "As bad as the US is, many places elsewhere are still worse."

        That the US is better than many other places is irrelevant to the question of whether or not the US is getting scarier every day. Personally, I think we should strive for more than just not being amongst the worst.

  8. doublelayer Silver badge

    Possibilities

    I understand why some people might be willing to accept this for murder, etc. However, consider the precedent. We may disagree how trustworthy American law enforcement is, but imagine law enforcement in dictatorships. If there is a legal way to extract this data, they will use it against much more than murderers. If we create a big-brother-capable system here, even if we protect ourselves, we may doom others to having it used on them. That is our responsibility.

    Also, the article mentions the google predictive keyboard as one of the apps in use here. Why does that ask for location data? Get that away from me right now. FYI, google, that's evil.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Possibilities

      Because Google slurp anything and everything, in all their apps, because it's in their nature.

      And that is probably why Google Play Services has no location permission toggle, you have to go to location in settings instead. Notice that that screen says nothing about Google Play Services' location permissions.

  9. Long John Brass Silver badge
    Big Brother

    You are aware that...

    This has been possible for a *VERY* long time. Before the time of Google even. The plod in most countries have been able to ask for Cell tower logs to get t fix on and a count of people within any given metro area.

    Yes smart devices from all the vendors make all this a lot easier, but the capabilities have around for a very long time now.

    1. TechnicalBen Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: You are aware that...

      I think they were asking little birds even before that.

    2. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: You are aware that...

      Cell tower logs are not as precise as location services which gets data from GPS, nearby WiFi, and nearby Bluetooth.

      1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

        Re: You are aware that...

        Cell tower information can be triangulated quite accurately. I remember an "app" on my Nokia communicator that could map out the area scaringly accurately just by triangulation of cell tower strength. Of course, you need to be somewhere that has enough towers, but even without that, a moving subject can often be matched to local road mappings.

      2. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

        Re: You are aware that...

        " GPS, nearby WiFi, and nearby Bluetooth."

        Have phones* got GPS or not? if so why this constant fucking around trying to guess where you are by other means?

        *half decent phones i mean

        1. Mark #255
          Boffin

          Re: You are aware that...

          Have phones* got GPS or not? if so why this constant fucking around trying to guess where you are by other means?

          Yes, but using GPS continuously is quite a power-hog. My phone can last two days between charging if I'm doing nothing much with it, even with all the radios enabled. If I actively log my position using GPS, that reduces to about 6 hours.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    OK, where were YOU on Thursday night between 1930 and 2200?

    Don't bother, we already know.

    Sergeant Harry "Snapper" Organs will now introduce you to the back stairs....

  11. ratfox Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    Huh? 20 acres?

    How many Olympic swimming pools is that?

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Re: Huh? 20 acres?

      4 micro-Wales

  12. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    The other lesson to be learned

    If you are going out to commit murder, leave your phone at home.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: The other lesson to be learned

      So how do you get everyone else to leave their phones at home as well?

      1. Not also known as SC
        Coat

        Re: The other lesson to be learned

        You don't need to get everyone else to leave their phone at home. If your phone is at home then you have an alibi that you weren't at the crime scene at the time of the crime. It doesn't matter about any one else because you're not going to be a suspect based on phone location data but the others are.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: The other lesson to be learned

          " If your phone is at home then you have an alibi that you weren't at the crime scene at the time of the crime. It doesn't matter about any one else because you're not going to be a suspect based on phone location data but the others are."

          Wanna bet? What are the odds of you NOT being taken by SOME passing selfie as you pass? Same for all those surveillance cameras you may not know about? Unless you carry some EMP jammer on your person or know you have a shadow twin...

          1. Not also known as SC

            Re: The other lesson to be learned

            "Wanna bet? What are the odds of you NOT being taken by SOME passing selfie as you pass? Same for all those surveillance cameras you may not know about? Unless you carry some EMP jammer on your person or know you have a shadow twin.."

            But the article isn't about that - it is about cops slurping location data from mobile phones to obtain a list of suspects. If your phone isn't in the location where the crime is committed then you won't appear on the list.

            PS I wasn't the down voter for your comment.

            1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

              Re: The other lesson to be learned

              Well they will automatically get a list of possible witnesses at the same time then - some of whom could have seen you

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: The other lesson to be learned

            Wanna bet? What are the odds of you NOT being taken by SOME passing selfie as you pass? Same for all those surveillance cameras you may not know about? Unless you carry some EMP jammer on your person or know you have a shadow twin...

            Easy, MY tinfoil hat covers my face, too

    2. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Re: The other lesson to be learned

      I suspect that few murders are planned. And of those that are, very few in total are planned by smart hit men/women.

  13. Guus Leeuw

    Dear Sir,

    this is a difficult one on the face of it.

    However I would wholeheartedly argue that the police should do more in the public eye. An investigation using electronic data to find people provides for a situation where the police is not visibly on the street trying to find witnesses. That in itself cannot be good. Feeling protected and secure can only be achieved when those who are supposed to provide that protection and securety are visible and are around.

    The village constable, in my day, knew what you were doing day in day out, because he walked the streets, and he talked to the people that he met. Poeple knew him, and he was approachable. Stuff got sorted out that way.

    Nowadays, I don't see police other than when they use their siren to jump a traffic queue at a busy crossing so that they can get to the chipper before you.

    Best regards,

    Guus

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      "The village constable, in my day, knew what you were doing day in day out, because he walked the streets, and he talked to the people that he met. Poeple knew him, and he was approachable. Stuff got sorted out that way."

      That was until people got nuts enough to target beat cops, on foot and in their cars, simply because they were cops. From then on, every police uniform has an invisible bullseye on its back. Eventually, you either (a) get them off the streets or (b) run out of recruits who view the job as suicide.

      1. Guus Leeuw

        As the case is here in the Republic of Ireland, it is very much different... Back in the day, police people got recruited because of their physical appearance... You'd have to be 6 ft something, strong, and large... A Jack Reacher kinda guy...

        Nowadays, they hire Tom Cruise type people for the police force, even as beat cops. I'm all for equal rights and all that stuff, but a hammer is just not a good tool to cut a piece into two pieces...

        That difference in appearance is already putting a target on their back. Also it makes for those people not wanting to go out on the beat, because, well, they are attackable, I would assume. Would you put yourself in a dangerous position? Neither would a cop. ;-) But "dangerous" is relative.

        It's not an easy situation to sort out / deal with, for sure, and the sword cuts both ways, I would still argue, though, that visible presence is everything...

        1997/1998, Santa Barbara CA: A cop in a cruiser along turnpikes and highways... not everywhere, but often enough you saw one sitting at the curb monitoring traffic... Also, in Goleta, you wouldn't have to wait for campus cops to come to a phoned-in publicly drunk situation... the cops would arrive faster than you walk to the end of the block... That alone will keep a lot of folks in check...

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          "1997/1998, Santa Barbara CA: A cop in a cruiser along turnpikes and highways... not everywhere, but often enough you saw one sitting at the curb monitoring traffic... Also, in Goleta, you wouldn't have to wait for campus cops to come to a phoned-in publicly drunk situation... the cops would arrive faster than you walk to the end of the block... That alone will keep a lot of folks in check..."

          But even back in the 1970's cops were targeted. One episode of Adam-12 featured an ambush of two cops in their car by a black militia. Then we fast-forward to July 5 last year when a cop in the Bronx was shot in the head from behind. In his car. A flat-out cop hit. That's how little respect the police get these days, which doesn't speak well for their respect of civilization in general.

        2. Teiwaz Silver badge

          Copfused?

          @Guus Leeuw

          As the case is here in the Republic of Ireland, it is very much different... Back in the day, police people got recruited because of their physical appearance... You'd have to be 6 ft something, strong, and large

          Are you sure you are not thinking of the RUC?

          I never got that impression of the Gardai - but then I never spent a lot of time in the larger irish cities, just the northwest and rural west, and the RUC always looked like they were clones produced in some farm outside Ballymena or like the cops from the anime 'Dead Leaves'. While the PSNI are all human shaped.

        3. tiggity Silver badge

          @ Guus Leeuw

          (Cliche alert) Size is not everything.

          Most dangerous person in a fight I have ever seen was short and would appear to be of slight build in clothes.

          .. but a martial arts expert

          (envisage similar stature / skills to Bruce Lee, but different appearance such as dark skin)

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        In this case, the society in which you live has real issues. Other societies have found that taxing the wealthy and Corporations to provide social services and education in those areas where income is low can greatly alleviate these issues. This enables people to move out of poverty and have the tools, sadly often not learned at home, to develop into active, productive members of society.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          But then the wealthy and corporations do one of two things.

          1. They move out of your jurisdiction, taking their money with them leaving you with 100% of nothing. If ever have to deal with your country again, they'll use shells with enough degrees of separation to keep all the big money out of it.

          2. They band together to take over the government and then batten down the hatches to make sure they can't be dislodged again.

          You see BOTH happening quite often in the USA.

    2. pɹɐʍoɔ snoɯʎuouɐ

      "The village constable, in my day, knew what you were doing day in day out, because he walked the streets, and he talked to the people that he met. Poeple knew him, and he was approachable. Stuff got sorted out that way."

      yes, but times have changed. These days, anyone who gets noticed talking to the local village bobby will be flagged as a snitch....

      Back in the day, kids fucking about would get the toe end of PC Plods boot up their arse and would feel the back of his hand.... and they would sooner that than the beating they would get from farther if PC Plod had to pay the house a visit.... But these days thats not allowed... :(

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        It's not just that. The kids are rebellious enough to attack their parents. One dad tried to spank his kid, he spun around and stomped his dad's feet with both of his. Dad ended up with a broken foot, and with the police on notice, retribution is impossible. It's not just a matter of teaching discipline to them; they're less capable of learning, tending to retaliate instead...sometimes past the point of no return.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "... impacted users ..."

    Are impacted users like impacted wisdom teeth - needing to be extracted?

    And what's wrong with the perfectly good word "affected" anyway - it's been in use since 1748 without confusing anyone.

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: "... impacted users ..."

      With you 100% on this. "Impact" seems to be the latest word to have been caught up in the American hyperbolae maelstrom where, through the overuse of clichés and hackneyed phrases synonyms get dragged in for effect in the talking head shows. Changes in use and usage are unavoidable. Nevertheless, judicious of language is what separates the wheat from the journalistic chaff.

    2. DropBear Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: "... impacted users ..."

      It has been reassigned to mean "effected" and vice-versa.

    3. Tom 38 Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: "... impacted users ..."

      In medical parlance, that would mean "constipated users"

  15. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    Why the gag order?

    From the article it's a little unclear as to what data is provided, particulatly the degree of anonymity. If the data is of the aggregated, anonymous variety then it will be much the same as that available from the mobile phone operators. If so, why the gag order? If personal data is provided then the provenance must also be declared in any legal proceedings. In either case the gag order seems fairly pointless so why was it requested? And why was it given?

    1. JohnFen Silver badge

      Re: Why the gag order?

      "why the gag order?"

      I think it's because the authorities know full well that people object to this sort of thing, so they want to keep the fact that they do it a secret.

  16. Whitter
    Unhappy

    Deletion

    Anyone know when the data is scheduled to be deleted?

    </Sarcasm>

  17. Fading Silver badge
    Holmes

    Excellent.......

    So now my mobile can provide an alibi whenever I commit a crime - just make sure I have left it elsewhere......

  18. Snorlax Silver badge

    Creepy Bastards

    Since I moved from iOS to Android I've been getting "Look at everywhere you've been in the last month" emails from Google. No doubt you can turn that shit off (along with the incessant business review requests) but Google's tracking is very in-your-face.

    Anybody thinking of committing a crime should leave their phone at home...

    1. tiggity Silver badge

      Re: Creepy Bastards

      Snorlax

      "Anybody thinking of committing a crime should leave their phone at home..."

      If you have a bus that does "round trip journeys" (same bus back and forth so you can get on the same vehicle) you can tape your phone under a bus seat and say you were on the bus. Ideal bus choice is one of those tourist buses - can just say it was a tourism ride as on a "normal" bus yu are unlikely to sight see so best alibi is fell asleep & missed intended stop scenario

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Creepy Bastards

        Busses have cameras around here. You'd need a doppelganger, but that can also be arranged.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I secretly hope that in a few years they will become so lazy and dependent on mobile phone tracking that, by not carrying one, I will become essentially invisible. CCTV and face recognition, that's a bigger problem. Apparently one can avoid face recognition pretty well by being a black woman, but for some of us this is not really an option...

  20. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

    If I see and advert for tools (because i searched for tools) , instead of an advert for shampoo I dont give a shit.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "If I see and advert for tools (because i searched for tools) , instead of an advert for shampoo I dont give a shit."

      I do prefer to see adverts relevant to me.... but I would also prefer if those adverts were for similar products and not just the one I had looked at....

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I do prefer to see adverts relevant to me.... but I would also prefer if those adverts were for similar products and not just the one I had looked at....

        And I prefer if Amazon realized that I'd stopped buying baby products a few years ago...

  21. Kaltern

    Seems to me people are looking for the absolute worst case here, and I don't beleive anything has ever been used against a normal citizen in such a way as being described.

    It also seems that people here are cynical beyond what's considered 'understandable'. Law enforcement are interested in catching an establlished crook, not try to pin something on someone who is unlikely to have been a suspect - no matter how many episodes of 'Law and Order' you may watch.

    I'm not saying it doesn't happen - it has done for centuries unfortunately, however the idea that Bomb Maker Mike could be caught because someone else's mobile phone caught a partial shot of him near the bridge that recently blew up would not be evidence in itself that he planted it - it would just give the police a credible suspect to work with. It isn't going to result in the immediate arrest and imprisonment of a potentially innocent man.

    Your phone is not going to land you in prison. Unless you're stupid enough to do a crime while recording it...

    1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      finally - the voice of reason!

  22. msknight Silver badge

    Increasingly less serious crimes?

    "The first crime was the murder of a cab driver in November 2016, the second an arson attack in March 2017 and the third, sexual battery, in August 2017 – suggesting that the police force is using the approach to discover potentially incriminating evidence for increasingly less serious crimes."

    I'm sure that the recipient of the sexual battery feels very reassured that the assault they suffered is less important than an arson attack.

    1. Snorlax Silver badge

      Re: Increasingly less serious crimes?

      @msknight:”I'm sure that the recipient of the sexual battery feels very reassured that the assault they suffered is less important than an arson attack.”

      Battery is generally a misdemeanor, while arson is generally a felony.

      So yeah, on the scale of serious to ‘less serious’ things would go: murder -> arson -> battery.

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: Increasingly less serious crimes?

        On the specific crimes, it hurts me to say it, but the arson is worst. Sexual battery is terrible, and should never happen, but the worst that can happen is a very terrible thing for the victim. Arson can result in multiple deaths, depending on how many people were present and what happens to the fire after the structure in question has gone up. Victims are likely to be those who cannot easily escape fire, including the elderly, children, and the disabled. Even if no one has been killed, the owner of the structure (assuming it is a residence) has had their life derailed as well. Neither should occur, but in the sense of the possible damage, arson is very terrible.

        In the scope of the article, they raise a good point even if you quibble how they do so. Even if you disagree entirely with the gradation of the crimes, you would probably understand that the general public that has not been connected to the crime will probably sort the crimes in the order of death > fire > assault. If you extrapolate, you could understand how this could extend down to thefts, vandalism, etc. We're not saying that it will happen, but the possibility is clear.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: Increasingly less serious crimes?

          No, murder is the worst because it's completely irreversible. Life lost cannot be regained. Murder in the commission of an arson is still murder (potentially mass murder).

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    False positive paradox

    I worry about the likelihood of miscarriages of justice with this kind of technique. When you're auto-generating lists of hundreds or thousands of suspects by these relatively indiscriminate database queries, the probabilty of unfortunate coincidences goes way up. If you have 1000 suspects and one of them matches a description given by a witness, what's the probability that it's the 1 guilty suspect and not one of the 999 innocent ones? Good luck explaining the statistics to a jury.

    1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      Re: False positive paradox

      People will use common fucking sense ,or use that "beyond reasonable doubt" thing.

      Proclaiming loudly that "the new tech will lead to people being wrongfully executed on the say of some computer" is willfully misunderstanding how it will be implemeted.

      I think they call that a strawman argument?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: False positive paradox

        Ah yes, common sense, that famously infallible method of answering difficult statistics questions.

        There have been numerous wrongful convictions in the past based on judges, juries and even experts failing to understand the statistical power of particular pieces of evidence.

        Oh and yes, you're right. Saying this:

        Proclaiming loudly that "the new tech will lead to people being wrongfully executed on the say of some computer" is willfully misunderstanding how it will be implemeted.

        ...is indeed a strawman argument, given that I did not say what you quoted. Credit for calling out your own logical fallacy.

  24. unwarranted triumphalism

    If you've nothing to hide you've nothing to fear. Why not just co-operate with law enforcement?

    1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      Ooh good troll, pretty soon you'll have 2 dozen replies telling you that governments cant be trusted and the y want to kill us all, but weirdly they cant do that without location data.

      1. unwarranted triumphalism

        Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit.

    2. JohnFen Silver badge

      Perhaps because "if you've got nothing to hide, you've got nothing to fear" is demonstrably false.

      1. unwarranted triumphalism

        Wrong, because I have nothing to hide and I have nothing to fear.

        1. JohnFen Silver badge

          Lucky you!

          However, there is a long list of people who had nothing to hide, but nonetheless suffered great losses (some even lost their lives) because the police screwed up.

          1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

            Anyone who has nothing to hide has nothing to say.

        2. Charles 9 Silver badge

          "Wrong, because I have nothing to hide and I have nothing to fear."

          Wanna bet? Cardinal Richlieu once said, "If one would give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest man, I would find something in them to have him hanged." Care to test him?

  25. arthoss

    GSM data is already available at the telephony provider

    yeah. so with or without google you'll still be tracked. Sometimes people forget that everything is digital not just the OS on their phone.

  26. J27 Bronze badge

    What?

    I feel like the author of this piece has never seen the movie Minority Report. That movie was about stopping crime BEFORE it happened using a predictive technique (that was essentially magic, because it wouldn't be possible in reality). This is still solving crimes after they happen. All the 1984 references in the comments are much more apt (although I'm sure The Reg's authors are getting sick of having to reference 1984 at this point).

    Where we are at the moment is a society where you'd have to significantly cut yourself off in order to not be easily traceable by authorities and laws haven't really caught up. I don't know what will happen when they do, it could easily go either way. Either more protective of privacy or less. In the UK in particular it does seem to be sliding significantly towards a full surveillance state.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What?

      "(that was essentially magic, because it wouldn't be possible in reality)"

      I did read recently about a study that was done that could predict crime hotspots and it did prove somewhat correct and the deployment of police on patrol in those areas reduced crime...

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: What?

        Statistical analysis. Been doing that for decades, since the 70's at least.

  27. JohnFen Silver badge

    A perfect example

    This is a perfect example of why using third-party services is inherently risky and should be avoided to the greatest extent possible.

  28. StargateSg7 Bronze badge

    They can't track me because I DO NOT carry my phone on me AT ALL!!!

    If people want to reach me they can call the office and leave a message with the secretary.

    There is NO WAY to track me as even my car is all manual with NO electronics.

    No GM Onstar or Ford Sync or ANY geo-locationing system PERIOD!

    It uses a carburateur with NO EFI. No onboard computers AT ALL!

    No Nothing! The radio is a a TAPE DECK! No GPS! No USB! No WiFi! ZERO! Not a thing!

    I leave my high end computer gear WHICH IS A COMPLETELY CUSTOM TEMPEST-rated

    ANYWAYS and DOES NOT use any "normal" hardware CPU/GPU chips or OS made by

    any usual manufacturer - its all custom in-house designs and builds! Even the compiler is inhouse.

    I simply CANNOT be tracked except with face recognition cameras and software

    and manual operator-based observation (i.e. ya have to physically FOLLOW ME!)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      So you never worry about a literal "seconds count" moment like "your wife is dying" or something like that?

  29. The_Idiot

    There are...

    ... many replies here suggesting the action is reasonable when carried out to help detect or prevent crime or a crime scene.

    But i wonder - where does 'reasonable' end? This one was 20 acres. That's a little over 284 metres on a side, for a square zone. So if 284 metres square is OK, surely 300 metres is? Or 500? Or 700? Or... well, or what?

    IF a possible perpetrator was believed to have tossed a phone, and then took to running, and the event took place one hour ago, do we start thinking diameters a fit human could run in that time, and making it into a radius? What if we think he might have got in a car? Should we make the 'reasonable' radius bigger, because we think he (or she) might _not_ have tossed the phone? Would there, in such discussions, even _be_ an upper limit to 'reasonable'?

    Buggered if I know. But I do know scope creep - and it seems to have _no_ upper limit, including the technically impossible on occasion. Sigh...

  30. packets

    Why is Alphabet simply having this data not a violation and/or abuse? Does anyone really think Google is using this information against its users will?

  31. JaitcH
    Happy

    Turning Cell Handsets Off or Using Disposable or 'Burner Phones' Will Defeat This Plan

    The cheapest cell handsets in many countries don't have GPS facilities whether Disposable or 'Burner Phones'.

    Over time even the Bad Guys will learn to turn all their electronics off - or use Serval (MESH) Apps after pulling the SIM.

  32. JaitcH
    FAIL

    Crooks and Crims: Rule 1: Turn Off All Electronics

    Given how much publicity has been given to Plod an Cops using cell phones to locate / determine who / what / when you would have thought people would know never do crime with a an active cell device.

    Or buy a burner cell handset.

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