September 5, 2012 by Philip Hodges
A few years ago, FBI agent Christopher Stangl appeared in a video put out by the FBI calling on people with computer science degrees to join them as they were needed now more than ever. In the video posted to Facebook, he said this:
Hello. My name is special agent Chris Stangl of the New York City field office of the FBI. Today more than ever we need individuals with computer science backgrounds to join the FBI. From a special agent that investigates cyber crime or the computer scientist that is embedded in the cyber squad that analyzes malware.
A couple days ago, the “hacktivist” groups Anonymous and Antisec responded by hacking into Stangl’s laptop and finding over 12 million Apple ID’s in a database. Anonymous took 1 million of them and published them on Twitter. The Apple ID’s refer to UDID’s (Unique Device Identifiers). Every iPhone and iPad have one. The hackers also noted that in the agent’s database contained cell phone numbers, usernames, zip codes and addresses of iPhone and iPad users. Some may call this an act of cyberterrorism by Anonymous and Antisec. And maybe it is, and maybe they should be prosecuted for it (if they can be found). But I’d also like to know just what an FBI agent is doing with a database of over 12 million iPhone and iPad users. Neither Agent Stangl nor an FBI spokesman commented on the incident.
They are effectively tracking these people through their Apple devices. Since most people with iPhones carry their phones all the time, it would be very easy to locate these individuals. But Apple users aren’t the only ones being tracked and monitored. Forbes had a piece back in April talking about how law enforcement use cell phone information to track people, and how cell phone companies sell their customers’ information to law enforcement and make millions a year doing so:
So, law enforcement is taking our tax dollars and buying our private information from our cell phone companies in order to keep track of us.[T]he American Civil Liberties Union revealed a trove of documents it had obtained through Freedom of Information Requests to more than 200 police departments around the country. They show a pattern of police tracking cell phone locations and gathering other data like call logs without warrants, using devices that impersonate cell towers to intercept cellular signals, and encouraging officers to refrain from speaking about cell-tracking technology to the public, all detailed in a New York Times story. But at least one document also details the day-to-day business of telecoms’ handing over of data to law enforcement, including a breakdown of every major carrier’s fees for every sort of data request from targeted wiretaps to so-called “tower dumps” that provide information on every user of certain cell towers.
The FBI’s Apple UDID databases and law enforcement’s tracking of our cell phones are consistent with what the NSA is building out in Utah. They’re building America’s largest data warehouse. Wired.com reported earlier this year that “flowing through its servers and routers and stored in near-bottomless databases will be all forms of communication, including the complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls, and Google searches, as well as all sorts of personal data trails—parking receipts, travel itineraries, bookstore purchases, and other digital ‘pocket litter.’”
If you’ve got Facebook and an iPhone, the FBI and local law enforcement likely know everything about you. This may or may not bother you depending on what you’ve said or where you’ve been on the internet or your iPhone. But just remember what our government considers criminal behavior these days.