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Various Authors 11:01 a.m., April 23
The FBI has requested help from Google in cracking the access codes to a San Diego pimp’s cell phone, the website ars technica is reporting.
Chula Vista resident Dante Dears, who served prison time related to his founding and operation of the prostitution ring Pimpin’ Hoes Daily (PHD), was originally convicted in 2005 for crimes related to an incident in which he recruited and later beat a 15 year-old girl from a homeless shelter. Released in 2009, he soon returned to prison on parole violations.
Released again in 2011, Dears again allegedly returned to his old operations, conducting business on a Samsung Android cell phone while tethered to his Chula Vista apartment via a GPS tracking device.
An FBI source witnessed Dears using the phone to repeatedly make calls to arrange appointments for a six-hour period last June. He also sent numerous text messages, after which women would arrive to give him money.
When confronted by the FBI, Dears claimed the phone belonged to his sister and refused to cooperate with authorities attempting to defeat the security codes. After several botched attempts, the phone locked down. Dears continued in his refusal to cooperate, failing to release information from his Google account that would allow investigators to unlock it.
A U.S. Magistrate Judge granted an FBI request to demand that Google release all personal information related to the phone and its associated accounts, including a record of all calls, text and picture messages sent and received, and even a list of all websites visited, the duration of viewing on each site, and details on all terms queried using the company’s search function.
Security researcher Chris Sohoian questions the legality of the judge’s decision to allow the FBI to demand such access. “Given that an unlocked smartphone will continue to receive text messages and new emails (transmitted after the device was first seized), one could reasonably argue that the government should have to obtain a wiretap order in order to unlock the phone.”
Responding to a comment request, Google responded to ars technica with a generic statement: “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.”