The United States Supreme Court’s next decision will determine whether a warrant is needed for law enforcement to review your cellphone location data. It was announced Monday that Carpenter v. U.S. will be heard by the Supreme Court and determine whether your cellphone location data is your cellphone location data and not public information.
Timothy Carpenter is alleged to have committed multiple armed robberies in the Midwest from 2010 to 2011, but he was convicted of six robberies because a prosecutor sought and obtained cellphone location data spanning more than five months, placing Carpenter in the area of the crimes.
Currently, law enforcement needs no warrant to view cellphone location data because of the Stored Communications Act, which was supposed to bolster the weak Fourth Amendment when it comes to protecting your data stored online. Only a subpoena and prior notice are required of law enforcement to entice a service provider to disclose the contents of an email or files stored online.
Carpenter’s appeal to three judges of the Sixth Circuit was unsuccessful because Carpenter “had no reasonable expectation of privacy in cellphone location records held by his service provider.” Expect the conservative majority Supreme Court to uphold this decision because you are not required to use a cellphone. You choose to use a cellphone because of how much easier it makes your life. You are not required to store information online. You choose to store information online so you can easily access it from anywhere. Again, you are choosing serenity over security -- publicity over privacy. You are at the discretion of your cellphone carrier when you sign a contract or purchase minutes for your cellphone. It’s no different than signing a contract with an internet service provider who can monitor your online habits and sell that information to advertisers.
Storing data online is a form of publication. Regardless of how you encrypt it or password-protect it, people who want access will get it. There are things you can do to avoid ending up like Carpenter, though.
If you’re going to commit a crime, turn off your location services in the privacy settings of your cellphone. You can always turn location services back on when you’re looking for a place to eat near you or trying to catch a bus, but unless you want law enforcement and the government to know your exact whereabouts at any given time, turn off location services when you don’t require them.
Turning off location services does not keep law enforcement or the government from determining your approximate location. As long as you are connected to a cell tower, your carrier can determine your approximate location. The only way to avoid this is to turn off your cellphone altogether.
One of the easiest ways people can gain access to cellphone data is by obtaining a cellphone that unlocks via the fingerprint scanner. Of course, many of the known hacks still require the finger of the cellphone owner to create a mold, but imagine you’re suspected of a crime like Carpenter. All authorities would need to unlock the data on your cellphone is your finger, and courts have repeatedly ruled with law enforcement on this issue.
If you’re dead, whoever wants to access your phone doesn’t even need your permission. Say you recorded video or audio of a murder. The murderer would just need your dead hand to delete the evidence. Determining which of the 10,000 possible combinations your passcode could be would take a lot longer.
A recent review of four smartphones for privacy and security by Gadget Hacks resulted in the Blackphone 2 taking the title as most secure cellphone. Blackphone’s manufacturer Silent Circle offers a year’s worth of encrypted phone calls and messages for free, so not even your carrier can intercept your communications. The phone also warns you when it’s connected to a suspicious cell tower in an attempt to protect your calls and text messages from StingRay surveillance devices used by the government.
What might be the best feature of the Blackphone, though, is the speed in which bugs are fixed. Silent Circle offers up to $1,024 for any bugs found with the phone’s security, and security updates that fix known bugs are released within 72 hours of the bug being discovered. The other three phones reviewed have security patches ready in a month or so.
One of the best ways to protect your mobile data is to delete it if your phone is lost or stolen. With Find My iPhone, you can log on to iCloud and delete your data from any other device. Here’s how you do it on Android devices.
If you want to protect your cellphone data, backing it up to the cloud is pretty oxymoronic. Your backup data should be stored on a secure computer or hard drive that’s encrypted and password-protected. You should keep multiple, encrypted backups as well, in case your computer drive fails.
I cannot stress enough the importance, convenience and sense of security that comes with using a virtual private network. For less than $4 per month, you can dictate the IP address location of all your devices so internet service providers and websites can’t monitor your online habits. This comes in handy when you use public wifi networks at the library, restaurants or even at the office. You’re more likely to come across spies on these networks, but with a VPN, the spies can’t see a thing. It really is worth the money. Plus, you can use a VPN to workaround blackout restrictions so you can watch your favorite baseball team’s games online.
Unless you’re using an iPhone, you should have some sort of anti-malware and antivirus app on your cellphone. Apple’s iOS is more secure by design, but if you jailbreak your iPhone, you should be using an anti-malware and antivirus app. Over 95 percent of malware attacks were targeting Android devices, so if you use an Android device, it’s critical that you have a line of defense against these attacks. You can even install a firewall to protect your device.
The best thing you can do to limit the amount of data cellphone carriers have on you is to not pay a cellphone carrier for service. Talkatone is a free, wifi calling and messaging service that allows you to do everything a cellphone carrier provides as long as you’re connected to a wifi network. If you do most of your calling and messaging from a place with a wifi network, you seldom need to use a cellphone tower, so don’t.
The only downside to not having cellphone data is if you live in a rural area that lacks public wifi networks. It makes it hard to send and receive calls and messages if you’re rarely around a wifi. If you rely on your cellphone as a GPS while driving, you’ll sacrifice that convenience, but we’ve managed to find our way with maps and atlases for centuries.
So there’s seven ways to protect your cellphone data. Take advantage of all of them so you don’t end up like Timothy Carpenter, whether you’re guilty or not.
If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: The Tech Night Owl, Free Talk Live, The Dr. Katherine Albrecht Show, Erskine Overnight, Home Talk, The Josh Tolley Show, The Tom Chenault Show
If you’re a sports fan, you probably feel like you must watch your favorite team play almost every game of the season. That means you’re likely paying hundreds of dollars for cable or satellite service every month. Service in my area runs from $109 per month to $170 per month because I have to purchase almost 200 channels I won’t watch just to get my regional sports channel.
Just because we’re sports fan doesn’t mean we should let cable and satellite service providers take advantage of us, though. You can watch almost every game your favorite baseball team team plays, whether you’re in their area or not, as well as NFL regular season and playoff games, MLB, NBA and NHL playoff games, and NCAA men’s basketball tournament games for less than $55 per month. And that includes your internet bill! Here’s how:
Getting your sports fix all starts with the right TV antenna for your area. Do some research to determine where the television broadcast towers are near you. If you live in rural America, a traditional antenna mounted to the roof of your home would be best. These have a range of up to 150 miles and are still very affordable, with options under $40. Here are some options compared.
If you live near a city you can save a few dollars and some installation hassles by purchasing a 25-mile or 50-mile, indoor antenna. I bought a 50-mile, indoor antenna that I stuck to a wall in my apartment and receive more than 40 channels, most of which display in perfect HD. This cost me less than $25 and took less than 10 minutes to find the best location for the antenna. That’s a one time cost to watch every NFL playoff game, including the Super Bowl, every MLB playoff game, including the World Series, every Stanley Cup Finals and NBA Finals game, and select NCAA men’s basketball tournament games -- all in stunning HD -- for as long as you or the antenna lives.
You can save a ton of money on television by investing in your internet connection, and I’m not talking about paying for the highest bandwidth. You only need a 15 to 20 mbps download speed to stream 4K UHD video, so anything more than that is overkill, unless you’re downloading a lot of media. Regardless, you should protect your online history with a virtual private network (VPN).
A VPN shields your IP address location from internet service providers and other spying eyes. You can change the perceived location of your IP address to anywhere in the world, which allows you access to foreign versions of Netflix and other streaming software. You can even use the VPN on other devices like your phone or tablet. The best part is, a VPN subscription runs around $5 per month or less, and allows you to get around MLB.TV’s blackout restriction.
If you live in the area served by your favorite MLB or NHL team’s regional sports channel, you can’t watch any game on that channel via MLB.TV or NHL.TV without a VPN. Don’t make the mistake of paying $45 per month for Sling TV for two months to basically watch your regional sports channel, and on a minute-or-so delay at that.
The real trouble with watching your local team on your HDTV is that you can’t run your VPN on your TV. You can run an HDMI cable from your computer to your TV, but why use two devices to watch TV when you could use one?
There are certain routers that allow for open-source, firmware installations that will allow you to shield the IP addresses of your entire network of devices. Then, when you connect your smart TV to the internet, it will take on the location you set using your VPN through your router’s client software. This will allow you to utilize the MLB.TV and NHL.TV apps on your TV or Roku device instead of connecting your computer to your TV every time the game is on.
The problem is that open-source software like DD-WRT and Tomato takes time to write, and new routers are introduced so often that it’s difficult for these coding communities to keep up. Translation: There aren’t many routers you can buy in a store that will be compatible with this open-source software. So if you’re not tech-savvy or just don’t want to take the time to “flash” your router and install the open-source firmware, you can buy routers with this open-source software preinstalled. Then it’s as easy as plugging it in and entering your VPN information in the client software and setting your preferred location.
If you’re willing to take the time and want to save a few dollars, a good place to start is by reading the forums at the DD-WRT and Tomato links provided above. I would suggest buying a router with open-source firmware pre-installed, though. Finding a router that’s compatible with DD-WRT or Tomato is harder than you’d think. While model numbers are printed on the router box, version numbers are not, so when you see a model number that’s the same as one that’s compatible, that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily compatible.
The savings are worth the struggle, though. You could save $700 per year or more by cutting cable and employing these methods. Here’s a breakdown of what you'll spend and save by investing in a digital antenna and VPN compared to cable and satellite providers:
= $54.26 per month during baseball season
= $43.32 per month the rest of the year
With NHL.TV = $67.76 per month during hockey/baseball season (roughly two months)
With NHL.TV = $56.82 per month during hockey season (roughly six months)
Yearly total without NHL.TV = $595.48
Yearly total with NHL.TV = $749.72
The Xfinity Double Play is the cheapest cable or satellite option in my area that includes my regional sports channel. That runs about $109 per month after tax for the first 12 months, or $1,308 for the first year, and a lot more after that. So without NHL.TV I’d save $712.52 annually. With NHL.TV, I’d save $558.28 each year. I’m either saving 54 percent or 43 percent on my TV and Internet bills, and the only games I wouldn't get are those on ESPN and NBCSN.
So just because you’re a sports fan doesn’t mean you have to pay for cable or satellite service. You can save a ton of money on your TV and Internet bill just by taking these few, easy steps. The best investment you can make is in your internet service and the cheapest investment you can make is in a VPN. Don't let increasing cable and satellite costs make you sacrifice your love of sports. Force the cable and satellite companies to be more competitive with other options by using those options.
Editor’s Note: An update follows.
If you run into some trouble getting your router VPN configuration working, visit here. To find out if your setup is working, visit a site like WhatIsMyIPAddress.com and see if the location you set up in your DD-WRT admin panel is the one identified by WhatIsMyIPAddress.com. Then do a speed test at SpeedTest.net.
There will be quite a bit of bandwidth lost due to the VPN running on your router, but it should still be fast enough to stream HD video.
I’d recommend only running your VPN through your router when you’re watching the game. This is as simple as removing the command from your router’s admin panel that connects your router to the VPN, saving the text in a Word, Text Edit or Notepad document, and rebooting your router. When you’re ready to watch the game, simply paste the text back in the router management tab labeled “Commands,” save startup, and reboot. This will lengthen the life of your router, too, as running the VPN through the router makes your router work harder and hotter.
Don’t expect this workaround to work forever, but take advantage of it while you can.
If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: The Tech Night Owl, Free Talk Live, The Dr. Katherine Albrecht Show, Erskine Overnight, Home Talk, The Josh Tolley Show, The Tom Chenault Show, View From The Couch
Congress has sent President Donald Trump legislation ending internet privacy protections. When Trump signs the bill, internet providers will be able to monitor their customers’ personal and financial information to sell highly targeted advertising.
The online advertising market is worth $83 billion according to emarketer.com, surpassing the television advertising market for the first time last year, so there is plenty of reason internet service providers (ISPs) want to sell your web history. But you need not worry. There are ways to retain your online privacy.
I have recently purchased what’s called a virtual private network service (VPN), which establishes a secure connection with an endpoint somewhere else on the internet so your ISP won’t know what you’re doing. If your internet privacy is worth $3 per month, I’d highly recommend purchasing a VPN service. Here are some VPN options compared on CNET. You can even make anonymous payments with Bitcoin or Skrill if you’re nervous about paying for the service with your debit or credit card.
If you’re not willing to pay for online privacy, it’s suggested you log out of any search engine before searching, because once you log on to Google or Yahoo or Bing, a profile is created to store your web history so they can sell it to advertisers.
SaferVPN.com also suggests you use your browser’s privacy mode available through your browser’s settings. This restricts your browser from saving your web history in its cache while disabling tracking cookies.
If you’re still nervous about using search engines, use DuckDuckGo.com. It doesn’t store your personal information. And don’t forget to surf the web securely. If a website has an https version of itself, use it. Just type https:// in front of the domain name instead of http://.