Metadata is a tricky thing. Sure, it can’t be used to figure out exactly what you said in that most recent phone conversation or text message, but it can be used to place you at a certain place at a certain time by law enforcement, even if you haven’t done anything wrong. A new report says that Police around the nation are potentially scooping up data on thousands of users at a time, even when the data collected doesn’t pertain to those under investigation.
A new report by the Sydney Morning Herald reveals that carriers are co-operating with law enforcement agencies to perform what’s known as a Tower Dump.
A Tower Dump refers to the practise of scooping up all the metadata captured by a local cell tower from thousands of users and storing it in an off-site data storage facility.
From there, law enforcement agencies can comb through the data to find information connected to a potential investigation.
It’s a little unsettling to think that, even if you haven’t done anything wrong, that your data is being lifted and analysed by law enforcement agencies, with little thought paid as to when it should be stored and when it should be destroyed.
Police agencies in NSW and Victoria won’t comment on the practise but carriers, including Vodafone — which has recently come clean on law enforcement having real-time access to its network — say that they have worked with agencies on such requests. [SMH]
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