Understanding the Mobile Ecosystem and Applicable Surveillance Law
by Edward Balkovich, Don Prosnitz, Anne E. Boustead, Steven C. Isley
Mobile phones, the networks they connect to, the applications they use, and the services they access all collect and retain enormous amounts of information that can be useful in criminal investigations. However, state and local law enforcement face two substantial challenges when accessing these data: (1) maintaining awareness of the sources and nature of commercial data available to an investigator and (2) determining the legal rules for access to these data. This report explores these issues and describes the development of a prototype tool — the Mobile Information and Knowledge Ecosystem (MIKE) — intended to help law enforcement, commercial entities, and policy analysts explore the mobile ecosystem and understand the laws regulating law enforcement’s use of data contained within the mobile ecosystem. The tool might also serve as a mechanism for sharing best practices in electronic surveillance.
The Mobile Ecosystem Presents Law Enforcement with Two Major Challenges
- It is difficult for law enforcement agencies to maintain awareness of the sources and nature of commercial data available to an investigator; law enforcement may be overlooking helpful information because officers are simply unaware of its existence.
- It is often difficult for law enforcement agencies to determine the legal rules for access to these data, since there is often uncertainty about how to interpret existing surveillance law with respect to mobile technology.
ADDRESSING THESE CHALLENGES
- A map-like tool, in which information can be readily edited, revised, and extended like a wiki, could help a wide range of stakeholders understand and stay up to date on how information is shared within the mobile ecosystem, what types of data exist within the mobile ecosystem, and the legal protections that govern access to such data.
- Such a tool might also serve as a mechanism for sharing best practices in electronic surveillance.