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Passenger Data To Be Stored For 15 Years

Guardian | The personal data of millions of passengers who fly between the US and Europe, including credit card details, phone numbers and home addresses, may be stored by the US department of homeland security for 15 years, according to a draft agreement between Washington and Brussels leaked to the Guardian.

The "restricted" draft, which emerged from negotiations between the US and EU, opens the way for passenger data provided to airlines on check-in to be analysed by US automated data-mining and profiling programmes in the name of fighting terrorism, crime and illegal migration. The Americans want to require airlines to supply passenger lists as near complete as possible 96 hours before takeoff, so names can be checked against terrorist and immigration watchlists.

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Domestic "Sneak and Peak" Searches Increase

KOAT ABC7 | A special type of government search warrant that allows authorities to search homes without informing the owner for months is becoming more common, Target 7 has learned.

Imagine someone walking through your neighborhood, coming into your home and rifling through your intimate belongings.

“(They) search through your home, your dresser drawers, your computer files,” Peter Simonson, with ACLU New Mexico, said.

These search warrants don’t involve knocking on doors or any type of warning at all. Delayed-notice search warrants, or "sneak-and-peek" warrants, allow federal agents to enter your home without telling you they’ve been there until months later.

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National Alert System For Cell Phones

NYDailyNews | Emergency officials will soon be able to blast critical alerts to anyone with a cell phone in a certain section of the city.

If Times Square needs to be evacuated because of a bomb threat or if a hurricane is bearing down on Queens, warnings will be bounced from cell towers.

"Making sure that [people] get useful and life-saving information, quickly and easily, right on their mobile phones, will help more people get out of harm's way when a threat exists," said Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator W. Craig Fugate.

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Senator Proposes "No Ride" list For Trains

Fox News | A "glaring loophole" in security of the nation's rail system demands that Amtrak begin much tougher scrutiny of passengers before boarding, New York Sen. Chuck Schumer said Monday, proposing a "no ride" list similar to airlines' "no fly" lists.

Schumer suggested a new screening process would be relatively simple to implement. Passengers already have to give their name when purchasing tickets for the train, but Schumer's plan would call for riders to show photo ID before boarding. The IDs would be compared to the name on their ticket and matched against a list of known or suspected terrorists. 

If there's a match, that passenger would be prevented from traveling.

"Anyone, even a member of Al Qaeda, could purchase a train trip ticket and board an Amtrak train without so much as a question from an official," Schumer, a Democrat, said.

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Lawmakers Looking Into iPhone Tracking

Foxnews | Reports of a hidden iPhone feature that silently tracks its users' whereabouts prompted widespread unease from smart phone customers Wednesday. Now, Capitol Hill lawmakers are demanding answers from Apple CEO Steve Jobs.

Researchers Alasdair Allan and Pete Warden on Wednesday released findings that Apple's iOS 4 software automatically tracks its users' locations, and stores that information in a file on iPhones and iPads. Privacy watchdogs say the unencrypted data could easily be compromised by third parties or hackers, especially when the devices are connected to a computer to "sync" music and other media.

"Anyone who gains access to this single file could likely determine the location of a user's home, the businesses he frequents, the doctors he visits, the schools his children attend, and the trips he has taken," Minnesota Democratic Senator Al Franken warned in a letter to Jobs. "There are numerous ways in which this information could be abused by criminals and bad actors."

Franken, recently named chair of a congressional subcommittee on privacy and technology, hinted that the iPhone software controversy could factor into hearings on Capitol Hill. "I haven't announced exactly when our first hearing is, but I will announce that very soon. And I certainly have been looking at mobile phones and privacy," Franken told home-state FOX affiliate KMSP.

Franken is asking Jobs to explain how and why Apple collects location data, citing concerns that "millions of children and teenagers" could be exposed to danger because of the tracking feature.

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Apple, Google Phones Collect User Data

WSJ | Apple Inc.'s iPhones and Google Inc.'s Android smartphones regularly transmit their locations back to Apple and Google, respectively, according to data and documents analyzed by The Wall Street Journal—intensifying concerns over privacy and the widening trade in personal data.

Google and Apple are gathering location information as part of their race to build massive databases capable of pinpointing people's locations via their cellphones. These databases could help them tap the $2.9 billion market for location-based services—expected to rise to $8.3 billion in 2014, according to research firm Gartner Inc. In the case of Google, according to new research by security analyst Samy Kamkar, an HTC Android phone collected its location every few seconds and transmitted the data to Google at least several times an hour. It also transmitted the name, location and signal strength of any nearby Wi-Fi networks, as well as a unique phone identifier.

Google declined to comment on the findings.

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Michigan Police Search Cell Phones During Traffic Stops

TheNewsPaper | The Michigan State Police have a high-tech mobile forensics device that can be used to extract information from cell phones belonging to motorists stopped for minor traffic violations. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Michigan last Wednesday demanded that state officials stop stonewalling freedom of information requests for information on the program.

ACLU learned that the police had acquired the cell phone scanning devices and in August 2008 filed an official request for records on the program, including logs of how the devices were used. The state police responded by saying they would provide the information only in return for a payment of $544,680. The ACLU found the charge outrageous.

"Law enforcement officers are known, on occasion, to encourage citizens to cooperate if they have nothing to hide," ACLU staff attorney Mark P. Fancher wrote. "No less should be expected of law enforcement, and the Michigan State Police should be willing to assuage concerns that these powerful extraction devices are being used illegally by honoring our requests for cooperation and disclosure."

A US Department of Justice test of the CelleBrite UFED used by Michigan police found the device could grab all of the photos and video off of an iPhone within one-and-a-half minutes. The device works with 3000 different phone models and can even defeat password protections.

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San Francisco Considering ID Scans for Public Events

TheRawStory | The San Francisco Entertainment Commission was scheduled Tuesday to consider a proposal that would mandate ID scans for every person entering a "place of entertainment" attended by more than 100 people -- a move that immediately sparked the fears of civil libertarians, who saw it as yet another encroachment of a creeping "police state" culture.

The commission said it would take up the proposal at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday evening, at their typical meeting place in San Francisco's City Hall.

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