Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Risk

NSA Wrestles With Phone Location Data Tracking

National Security Agency says it may have the authority to track U.S. citizens using mobile-device location data under "certain circumstances."

Inside DHS' Classified Cyber-Coordination Headquarters
(click image for larger view)
Slideshow: Inside DHS' Classified Cyber-Coordination Headquarters
The National Security Agency (NSA) is considering the surveillance of people in the United States by intercepting mobile-device location data, NSA general counsel Matthew Olsen said this week.

The NSA is still deciding whether it has the legal right to engage in this type of surveillance activity, Olsen said during a hearing of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. The hearing was part of the process to decide whether Olsen should take over as head of the National Counterterrorism Center--a position for which he's been nominated.

Currently the NSA and other intelligence agencies are not lawfully permitted except under certain circumstances to spy on U.S. citizens while they are within the United States.

However, in response to a question about whether government agencies have the authority to use cell-site information to track people in the United States for intelligence purposes, Olsen said there could be cases where this is permissible.

"I think there are certain circumstances where that authority may exist," he said, adding that it's a "difficult and complicated question."

The use of people's location-based device information has been a hotly debated topic on Capitol Hill and will have ramifications for technology companies like Google and Apple that have access to and control over that data.

In fact, back in May, executives from those companies testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology, and the Law and defended their protection of that information to lawmakers who were concerned about its potential misuse.

For the record, they assured lawmakers they're committed to maintaining the privacy of users of Android-based smartphones and iPhones and iPads, which use geo-location technology to locate where a person is using a device so a range of applications can provide personalized services.

At the same time, however, they defended the companies' use of the technology, saying it provided valuable services to consumers.

Ironically enough, during the same hearing, a Department of Justice official called for laws requiring these types of companies and wireless carriers to store user location data that could be helpful to criminal investigations in which a person's location is critical to solving a crime. Of particular interest to the department are cases in which child abduction is involved.

A bill before the Senate now is aimed at providing some legal parameters for how this type of information can be used for intelligence or other investigative purposes.

The Location Privacy Protection Act of 2011, or S. 1223, proposed last month by Sens. Al Franken, D-Minn., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., would require that consumers are notified before any information collected from their mobile device is shared with third parties.

See the latest IT solutions at Interop New York. Learn to leverage business technology innovations--including cloud, virtualization, security, mobility, and data center advances--that cut costs, increase productivity, and drive business value. Save 25% on Flex and Conference Passes or get a Free Expo Pass with code CPFHNY25. It happens in New York City, Oct. 3-7, 2011. Register now.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
COVID-19: Latest Security News & Commentary
Dark Reading Staff 5/28/2020
How an Industry Consortium Can Reinvent Security Solution Testing
Henry Harrison, Co-founder & Chief Technology Officer, Garrison,  5/21/2020
10 iOS Security Tips to Lock Down Your iPhone
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  5/22/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Current Issue
How Cybersecurity Incident Response Programs Work (and Why Some Don't)
This Tech Digest takes a look at the vital role cybersecurity incident response (IR) plays in managing cyber-risk within organizations. Download the Tech Digest today to find out how well-planned IR programs can detect intrusions, contain breaches, and help an organization restore normal operations.
Flash Poll
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-4231
PUBLISHED: 2020-05-28
IBM Security Identity Governance and Intelligence 5.2.6 could allow an authenticated user to perform unauthorized commands due to hazardous input validation. IBM X-Force ID: 175335.
CVE-2020-4232
PUBLISHED: 2020-05-28
IBM Security Identity Governance and Intelligence 5.2.6 could allow an attacker to enumerate usernames to find valid login credentials which could be used to attempt further attacks against the system. IBM X-Force ID: 175336.
CVE-2020-4233
PUBLISHED: 2020-05-28
IBM Security Identity Governance and Intelligence 5.2.6 could allow a remote attacker to obtain sensitive information, caused by the failure to set the secure flag for the session cookie in SSL mode. By intercepting its transmission within an HTTP session, an attacker could exploit this vulnerabilit...
CVE-2020-4244
PUBLISHED: 2020-05-28
IBM Security Identity Governance and Intelligence 5.2.6 could allow an unauthorized user to obtain sensitive information through user enumeration. IBM X-Force ID: 175422.
CVE-2020-4245
PUBLISHED: 2020-05-28
IBM Security Identity Governance and Intelligence 5.2.6 does not require that users should have strong passwords by default, which makes it easier for attackers to compromise user accounts. IBM X-Force ID: 175423.