Why I went “fishin” for Kingfish?

Print

There are three principles that drove me to take out my rod and reel to go trolling for this elusive secret mark, Kingfish.

First, is my penchant to make sure that institutions with power, whether public or private, are accountable, transparent, and scrutinized. Secondly, my strong belief in an individuals right to privacy. Thirdly, to change the law to reflect the emerging technology that compromises our privacy.

For decades, I have been balancing the above, 1st and 2nd concepts in many of my legislative and community efforts. The third is based on what I did 25 years ago.

In the summer of 1988 through the 1989 Minnesota legislative session, I worked with a group of lawmakers in researching and writing amendments to the Minnesota 626A (Privacy of Communications) law that guides how government gets access to your electronic records in the cloud, cell phone records, GPS locations, and intercept and get access to your electronic communications (emails, ie).

But in 1988-1989, there was no such thing as “the cloud”, cell/smart phones, and GPS locations being collected where ever you go. Matter of fact when I brought up with lawmakers in 1989 the need to entrench protections in the bill because of electronic tracking devices I had to to convince them how law enforcement was using them. They put some limited protections.

Now here we are in 2013 where government is using a quarter of century old “words” law to guide itself in gathering data about ourselves. This is the heart of the Kingfish question, are the current laws in sync with the technology that has emerged in the last 25 years? The answer for me is simple, no.

Starting last year I have been making a number of data requests to see how easy law enforcement and government agencies get access to our electronic communications and records. My goal as I stated before is to update our laws. What I found out is that local and state government are using administrative subpoenas and simple court orders to get easy access to our electronic data, documents/records, communications and location held by third parties. And the kicker is it is with a very low threshold/standard to where it may be “relevant to an investigation.”

As I researched how location data is collected by cell/smart phones I found about a new tech toy called the Stingray. This new tool was being used by law enforcement across the USA. The Stingray is the brother to Kingfish.

I heard about the Kingfish in 2010 at the Minnesota Legislature and by news reports in the Star Tribune how Hennepin County was acquiring one. It was then I decided to take a look back and see how the Hennepin County Sheriff was doing with the “fish”. Rereading a news article I found out the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension had a possible “fish”, too. The first time I knew about that.

So I sent data practice requests three months ago to the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and the Hennepin County Sheriff.

What I am trying to accomplish with my “fishin” activities is to get public data so that policymakers and the public can make informed decision-making about how institutions of power with emerging technology compromises our liberties and privacy. It is that simple. Accountability, transparency, and scrutiny.

NOTE: This specific post is not about in detail the issues surrounding emerging technology and it’s interaction with our rights and liberties That is reflected in previous posts and will also continue in the future. richneumeister.com