In the United States, we have the right to privacy. The Fourth Amendment protects us against unwarranted invasions of privacy, or against unlawful search and seizure. This right extends to electronic devices, including computers and cell phones.
Around midnight one lovely evening a couple of years ago, a man was pulled over for driving on the highway's shoulder, which is a traffic violation in the state where this took place. The officer went through all the usual business officers do when they pull someone over for a ticket -- assessing him for signs of drunkenness, keeping an eye out for weapons, and checking his driver's license and that of his passenger for any outstanding warrants. Everything checked out fine, so the officer issued the man a written warning.
Have you heard about the "Stingray" cellphone tracking device? The Stingray and its competitors are devices that mimic cellphone towers, giving users access to all the information cellphone companies collect. Like what? So-called "metadata," which reveals exactly where your phone is located, who you're calling, who's calling you, and how long your phone calls lasted-- all in real time.
If you're unfamiliar with the Bridgegate scandal affecting our neighbor to the east, you probably haven't been paying attention to the last three years of ramp-up coverage on the 2016 presidential election. For the uninitiated, there was a time when New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was a popular governor and a serious candidate for that high office.
This week, six former officers from the Philadelphia Police Department's undercover drug unit are being tried on a 26-count federal racketeering indictment. The star witness is former unit member Jeffrey Walker, who pled guilty in 2013 and is now testifying for the prosecution. Walker's plea led to as many as 160 drug convictions being overturned. In addition, numerous civil rights lawsuits have been filed by people mistreated by the drug unit.
On Wednesday, the Associated Press issued a blockbuster report on the use of high-tech surveillance techniques by local police departments -- Baltimore in particular -- and the degree to which the FBI is willing to sacrifice our constitutional rights in order to keep that surveillance secret.