Tuesday, August 27, 2013
Pen register info or metadata won't stay "Under the Dome" or behind "The Wall"
There may be little or no Fourth Amendment protection against government’s getting your “pen register” data (or metadata) from a list of phone numbers, web sites visited or searches entered, but they can certainly tell investigators a lot about your affairs. Timothy B. Lee gives a detailed and lucid explanation this morning on the Washington Post Switch Blog, following some of the work done by GWU law professor Daniel Solove (Books blog July 23), link here.
The biggest practical risk to consumers in western countries is secondary suspicion if they are already under investigation for something else. This could be particularly the case if someone tries to frame someone else online, or a true virus infection of one’s personal computer causes a criminal investigation (such as child pornography, where I have covered false prosecutions on my Internet Safety Blog, such as on July 23, 2013 and Feb. 3, 2007).
Other examples where metadata could matter could be in background investigations, as for security clearances or even gun purchases.
It seems, then, “you” are known by your associations.
Lee’s analysis of using metadata to deduce the status of a personal relationship (like in divorce litigation, maybe even gay divorce in the future, or perhaps child custody) is interesting. But some relationships still occur pretty much “off the grid” (or “behind the Wall”, to refer to a fantasy film I saw last night and reviewed this morning under Movies). Maybe telepathy is real, and can’t be kept “under the Dome”. By the way, from the recaps, that latter show sounds like it finally got interesting; I need to get caught up.
There was a small report today on WJLA-7 that some small business lenders are looking at the credit worthiness of Facebook Friends' lists in deciding on loan desirability for some applicants. This is certainly a new wrinkle on the online reputation deate.