Back in 2015, California enacted legislation requiring cellphone makers to equip their products with over-the-air kill-switches that could be used to brick stolen phones; the idea was to reduce the incentive to steal phones (a crime that often involved a surprising amount of violence) because as soon as the phone was stolen, it would stop working forever.
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The European Court of Justice has ruled that the 2014 EU-Canada passenger name record (PNR) agreement was "incompatible with the fundamental rights recognised by the EU," because the records ("names, travel dates, itineraries, ticket and contact details, travel agents and other information") were used for purposes "beyond what is strictly necessary for the prevention and detection of terrorist offences and serious transnational crime." Read the rest
Rudy Carcamo-Carranza was an undocumented restaurant worker in Michigan wanted for a DUI and a hit-and-run; the FBI and ICE used IMSI catchers -- powerful, secretive cellphone tracking tools that the agencies bill as a kind of superweapon in the war on terror -- to catch him and put him up for deportation. Read the rest
The UK tax authority HMRC abused the country's controversial anti-terrorism law to spy on a whistleblower and journalists at the Guardian after it was embarrassed by the revelation that it had given a sweetheart deal to Goldman Sachs. Osita Mba revealed a government oversight body that HMRC forgave GBP10M in interest owed by Goldman Sachs after a failed tax-evasion scheme, and in the ensuing public furore, HMRC's top executives invoked RIPA, the country's anti-terror law, to spy on its employees and on Guardian journalists in order to discover the identity of the leaker. Under RIPA, HMRC is able to spy on the nation's emails, Internet traffic, text messages, phone records and other sensitive data.
Lin Homer, the head of HMRC has appeared before a Parliamentary committee to explain its use of anti-terror spying powers to uncover the identity of a whistleblower whose personal information is protected by legislation, and was unrepentant, and would not rule out doing it again in the future.
Margaret Hodge, the committee chair, expressed shock at this. But it was under her party's last government, the Blair regime, that RIPA was put into place, over howls of protest from campaigners who predicted that it would be used in just this way. Read the rest