(John Ransom, Headline USA) The United States Postal Inspector Service (USPIS) has been using sophisticated tools to hack into people’s phone with increasing frequency since 2019, leading civil liberty and privacy advocates to warn about inadequate safeguards against the abuse of the data.
Postal Service hacking into hundreds of seized mobile devices, tracking users’ social media posts | Just The News https://t.co/e1ixP2CUL5
— Just the News (@JustTheNews) February 3, 2022
In 2020, 331 devices were processed and 242 were unlocked using a GrayKey device, “to extract previously unattainable information from seized mobile devices,” said the USPIS in a report, adding that they needed to purchase more devices to meet demand.
Epoch Times first reported the story in January, noting that USPIS didn’t respond to questions by the news outlet regarding under what circumstances these hacking devices were used.
“We don’t know what safeguards are in place,” retired FBI agent Marc Ruskin told Epoch Times. “If the guidelines are flimsy, they may be permitting warrantless searches. Under what circumstances are warrants required?”
Jake Wiener, a law fellow at the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) echoed concerns about privacy, saying a hack of phone data could expose potentially embarrassing information that doesn’t have anything to do with a criminal investigation.
“Phone hacking tools are a direct threat to privacy because they can expose information that everyone wants to keep private and would be irrelevant to a criminal investigation,” Wiener told Just the News.
Wiener said that hacking tools could be used to expose intimate messages with family, private photos, records of our movements and other data.
The phone hacking report comes as Yahoo News said last year that the USPIS has been running a system called Internet Covert Operations Program that monitored social media post about planned protests and “inflammatory postings” on multiple media channels.
Why the Postal Service would need to do that or hack phones is still unclear.
“It’s not at all clear why their mandate would include monitoring of social media that’s unrelated to use of the postal system,” Rachel Levinson-Waldman, deputy director of the Brennan Center for Justice’s liberty and national security program told Yahoo News,