FBI serves warrant requesting Android phone's contents from Google

After failing to gain access into an alleged pimp's Android smartphone, the FBI has served a warrant to Google, demanding to know a wide range of the defendant's personal information, including his name, address, Social Security number, account login and password, email, text messages and more, reports Ars Technica. A federal judge has granted the warrant request.

The story begins with Dante Dears of San Diego, who in 2005 was sentenced to state prison after starting and running a group called "Pimpin' Hoes Daily," abbreviated PHD. Dears pleaded guilty in his case, and before you feel too badly for him due to the recent scrutiny from the FBI, heed the testimony of a female who Dears recruited out of a homeless shelter when she was just 15 years old.

"He told me he was going to help take care of me and be there for me," the female witness told the court. "He told me what to do and how to do it and said we would make money that way... I was tired of living on the streets."

She earned up to $500 a night, all of which went straight to Dears. When Dears found out that she had spoken to a man who wanted to help her get off the streets instead of "working," Dears beat her up in the back seat of his Cadillac before forcing her into the car trunk.

After Dears left prison in 2009, he was quickly sent back to jail for another year and a half for violating his parole on three separate occasions. He was released again in May 2011, after which an FBI informant said he saw Dears return to his old ways. Even though Dears had to wear a GPS monitor and stay off the streets, the FBI alleges that he was able to continue "telephone pimping" with his Samsung Android phone.

The FBI recorded evidence of Dears using his cell phone, even though he had denied owning one to his parole agent. Dears then claimed the phone belonged to his sister when confronted with the evidence. Finally, Dears turned the phone over to the state parole agent, but refused to unlock the device. The FBI did not have the right to search his cell phone without a warrant, so they obtained one on February 13, 2012.

Upon receiving the warrant, the FBI took the phone from the parole agent and sent it to an FBI Regional Computer Forensics Lab in Southern California, where technicians failed to gain access to the contents of the phone. According to Ars Technica, the forensics technicians were stumped by Android's pattern lock, which locked down the phone after technicians entered incorrect patterns enough times. The FBI then sought a new warrant, which requested Dears' information from Google. That warrant application was filed on March 9, 2012, and was discovered by security researcher Chris Soghoian.

In that warrant, the FBI requested the following information from Google: the subscriber's name, address, Social Security number, account login and password, all email and personal contact list information in the cell phone, the times and duration of every webpage visited, all text messages sent and received from the phone, including photos and videos, any email addresses and instant messenger accounts that were used on the phone, search terms, Internet history, GPS data and even more. Despite the privacy concerns involved in obtaining such a huge amount of information, a U.S. Magistrate Judge granted the warrant the same day it was filed.

Google provided a statement to Ars Technica: "Like all law-abiding companies, we comply with valid legal process. Whenever we receive a request we make sure it meets both the letter and spirit of the law before complying. If we believe a request is overly broad, we will seek to narrow it."

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42 Comments

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And if people who were actually friends with this man would get access to his account and start removing all traces of evidence then the warrant would be useless.....

blade1269 said,
"When the people find that they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic." Ben Franklin


"Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote."


"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither safety nor liberty."
All by Ben franklin

blade1269 said,


"Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote."


"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither safety nor liberty."


God grant that not only the love of liberty but a thorough knowledge of the rights of man may pervade all the nations of the earth, so that a philosopher may set his foot anywhere on its surface and say: This is my country.

All by Ben franklin


On one side (The law) the incompetency of that regional office of the FBI is disgusting. Are we not to put away our criminals with science and proof (think critical thinking skills).

OTOH: GOOD! They can already throw away this fool so why erode more liberties? So we can build more jails and create (temp) construction jobs?

Daniel_Pooh said,
The FBI is weak and their agents are little sissys I've killed so many that came after me.

I hope you realize this is not talking about a video game. This is RL (real life).

Nas said,

I hope you realize this is not talking about a video game. This is RL (real life).

Nah, he speaks the truth. They ain't bout nothin!

rippleman said,
yup, sounds like a lot of people are mad at the fact that its going to be harder and harder to be a criminal. poor babies, its ok

Hmm, reminds me of a quote "if you have done nothing wrong, you have nothing to hide, right?"

I suggest your Govt. deploy a special agent tailing you everyday and every moment, even into toilets. If you are guilt-free, you have nothing to hide, right?

resol612 said,

Hmm, reminds me of a quote "if you have done nothing wrong, you have nothing to hide, right?"

I suggest your Govt. deploy a special agent tailing you everyday and every moment, even into toilets. If you are guilt-free, you have nothing to hide, right?

Going by the article, the guy pleaded guilty and the FBI already has evidences. It's not like they are getting a warrant for some random guy just in case he has done something wrong.

This is government at it's best. Pick out a guy nobody will like and use him as an excuse to take away everyone's rights. This is lazy law enforcement, government that doesn't respect any boundaries or "rights" and a dumbed down public that bends over at the slightest risk in life.
I don't care what a judge, Google, the government or anyone else says is OK anymore, I trust none of them and will do everything I can to fight it and I don't think I'm alone in that thinking.

Hahaiah said,
This is government at it's best. Pick out a guy nobody will like and use him as an excuse to take away everyone's rights. This is lazy law enforcement, government that doesn't respect any boundaries or "rights" and a dumbed down public that bends over at the slightest risk in life.
I don't care what a judge, Google, the government or anyone else says is OK anymore, I trust none of them and will do everything I can to fight it and I don't think I'm alone in that thinking.

My thoughts exactly. They will use this just like Bush used the WMD facade to start a war with Iraq.

Hahaiah said,
This is government at it's best. Pick out a guy nobody will like and use him as an excuse to take away everyone's rights.

+1.

Whats the old saying about giving up liberties for security and you usually end up with neither.

Hahaiah said,
This is government at it's best. Pick out a guy nobody will like and use him as an excuse to take away everyone's rights. This is lazy law enforcement, government that doesn't respect any boundaries or "rights" and a dumbed down public that bends over at the slightest risk in life.
I don't care what a judge, Google, the government or anyone else says is OK anymore, I trust none of them and will do everything I can to fight it and I don't think I'm alone in that thinking.

Really? Wow they aren't doing anything illegal here. They filed for a warrant on a guy that has pleaded guilty and been convicted. They have legally acquired his phone and are now seeking to have google fill in the information they need all in a perfectly constitutional manner.

S00N3R FR3AK said,

Really? Wow they aren't doing anything illegal here. They filed for a warrant on a guy that has pleaded guilty and been convicted. They have legally acquired his phone and are now seeking to have google fill in the information they need all in a perfectly constitutional manner.

Imagine for a moment a different scenario. Let's just say you were suspected of wrongdoing or just mistakenly became a target of some federal alphabet agency. They have no proof against you. Because it's easy, they simply use a terrorism law or maybe a law recently supported by this case to "legally" obtain all your phone and internet history. They then discover you had an email conservation with one of the 1 million people on the terror watch list. You are now considered a possible threat. I think you see where I'm going with this. Fiction? Guess again. LE routinely uses anything they can to sidestep laws that are put in place to protect citizens. You live in a fantasy land if you believe they are only going after "hard" criminals. Then research any successful prosecutor's record, and marvel at how often they knowingly attack innocent people. Then take a look at how often they get away with their own wrongdoings. Every time you give them an inch they take a mile. You should be fighting tooth and nail to keep every bit of privacy you have left, because soon you will have none.

Hitman2000 said,

+1.

Whats the old saying about giving up liberties for security and you usually end up with neither.

They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither safety nor liberty.


Dusco25 said,
This will go no where.. Get pushed under the rug.

I'm pretty sure the FBI doesn't spend all this time on this guy just to have it go no were. If they can show he violated Parole again and rack up new charges on him via Google's help they will.

Matthew_Thepc said,
Might I ask how Google knows the SSN of Android users? genuinely curious

They may not, and it just may be a request in case they do have it. I have all sorts of random notes in my contact information (just nothing as sensitive as a ssn).

Matthew_Thepc said,
Might I ask how Google knows the SSN of Android users? genuinely curious

Depends on what they require the 'Carrier' to share with them, and if the carrier is contract or uses a SSN for credit check, etc.

The other way... Store it on your phone in a Google App or heck even put it a file you save on GDocs, or email it through GMail. It is one of the things that get tagged and held in association with your accounts for 'trending/tracking'.

thenetavenger said,

The other way... Store it on your phone in a Google App or heck even put it a file you save on GDocs, or email it through GMail. It is one of the things that get tagged and held in association with your accounts for 'trending/tracking'.

Do you know for a fact that they would collect your SSN that way? Looks like a **** poor method to collect personal information. I have info from different people, stored with no relation to whom it belongs... how is Google supposed to tell what's mine and what's not?

Then again, why would the FBI need Google to obtain someone's SSN? One would think they could just get it straight from the Social Security Administration without problems.

WTF....why would Google have any of that information let alone my SSN? And people wonder why I dumped using Google for anything

BlendedFrog said,
WTF....why would Google have any of that information let alone my SSN? And people wonder why I dumped using Google for anything

Court would have requested the warrant to apple and Microsoft if it was an iphone or WP7..
This shows how ignorant you are.

still1 said,

Court would have requested the warrant to apple and Microsoft if it was an iphone or WP7..
This shows how ignorant you are.

And Microsoft has your SSN if you own a WP7 phone or use Windows or Hotmail or Live? Really?

You might want to let them know this, since they don't.

The only information Microsoft has is from 'specific' registration, like becoming an OEM partner or a MSDN member, and the last time I filled one out, I don't even remember those 'business linked' services asking for a SSN.

So you might want to reevaluate the ignorance in your response...

still1 said,

Court would have requested the warrant to apple and Microsoft if it was an iphone or WP7..
This shows how ignorant you are.

My god...apple and microsoft better not have my ssn. That is the one piece of information that I hold very close to my chest and don't let anyone have. I also don't transmit it over the net unless I absolutely have to.

thenetavenger said,

And Microsoft has your SSN if you own a WP7 phone or use Windows or Hotmail or Live? Really?

You might want to let them know this, since they don't.

The only information Microsoft has is from 'specific' registration, like becoming an OEM partner or a MSDN member, and the last time I filled one out, I don't even remember those 'business linked' services asking for a SSN.

So you might want to reevaluate the ignorance in your response...


thats the point... google dont have ur ssn either... there is no ignorance in my post but u didnt get my point.

Google doesn't have my SSN. I use a lot of their products and services. I never once was asked for a Social security number not even for Google Wallet or Google Checkout (I think they are one and the same now).

BlendedFrog said,
WTF....why would Google have any of that information let alone my SSN? And people wonder why I dumped using Google for anything

Just because they have asked for your SSN doesn't mean Google actually has your SSN.

ichi said,
Just because they have asked for your SSN doesn't mean Google actually has your SSN.

It really does, actually. Anyone collecting personally identifiable information (PII) is obligated to destroy active records... but also have backups of PII used to gain access to whatever portions of a company's operations requiring it. In other words, they are expected to provide proof of non-conspiracy unless Google (or other vendors) wish to be co-conspirators to alleged crimes and be sued themselves for obstruction of justice.

Many are just dumb here!!
1. If court ask any company to give out the information they have to give it IF THEY HAVE THEM.. its law not company policy
2. In this case Google was asked to give the data... It not necessary mean they have the data... also how hard is it for the US government to find a persons SSN if they have him..

so, the FBI and their contractors violated the basic forensics rule for computers. dont mess with the device... image it then play with the image... yes you can image cell phones, there are special devices created just for that reason... and if you can't image it then go to the OS writer and find out how to dump the flash memory or use special tools to attach to the flash chips and dump the contents... you never touch the device in question because you have no idea if there is a wipe set up on it if you fail login so many times, self destruct methods, someone being able to remote wipe it, etc

but as you can see, thats not necesary, because all your information 'live' in the cloud, probably forever. Imagine they dont need that warrant. Dont worry, this will get even worse.

neufuse said,
so, the FBI and their contractors violated the basic forensics rule for computers. dont mess with the device... image it then play with the image... yes you can image cell phones, there are special devices created just for that reason... and if you can't image it then go to the OS writer and find out how to dump the flash memory or use special tools to attach to the flash chips and dump the contents... you never touch the device in question because you have no idea if there is a wipe set up on it if you fail login so many times, self destruct methods, someone being able to remote wipe it, etc

Good point.

neufuse said,
so, the FBI and their contractors violated the basic forensics rule for computers. dont mess with the device... image it then play with the image... yes you can image cell phones, there are special devices created just for that reason... and if you can't image it then go to the OS writer and find out how to dump the flash memory or use special tools to attach to the flash chips and dump the contents... you never touch the device in question because you have no idea if there is a wipe set up on it if you fail login so many times, self destruct methods, someone being able to remote wipe it, etc

My thoughts exactly. This is exactly how I would have done it and I bet my bottom dollar I would have succeeded. The problem is that the U.S. government is lazy and would rather utilize excessive force and military action to get what they want rather then using their brains. This is why the U.S. Economy is failing and the American Dream has turned into the American Nightmare.