Court OKs Seizure of iPhone Metadata to Track Child Porn

Feb 4, 2014 3:30 PM PST

GALVESTON, Texas — Federal authorities lawfully seized iPhone metadata to locate a man accused of uploading child pornography, a federal court has ruled.

U.S. District Judge Gregg Costa declined last week to suppress evidence that was taken from an iPhone 4. That evidence included metadata to identify the GPS coordinates where the photo had been taken.

That metadata led FBI agents to the home of defendant Donald Post, who then admitted to taking that photo, as well as others, of a four-year-old girl who had recently stayed at his home.

Post contends that even though he had uploaded the image to a website, he retained a privacy interest in that image’s metadata that law enforcement invaded in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights.

The sexually explicit photo was posted on a website "primarily dedicated to the advertisement and distribution of child pornography and the discussion of matters pertinent to incest and pedophilia."

"Post's attempt to carve out the metadata from his public release of the image finds no support in the text of the Fourth Amendment or the case law applying it," Costa's wrote in his order.

Post "gave up his right to privacy in that image once he uploaded it to the Internet, and that thing he publicly disclosed contained the GPS coordinates that led agents to his home," Costa wrote.

"There is no basis for divvying up the image Post uploaded into portions that are now public and portions in which he retains a privacy interest," Costa wrote.

Tim Henning, ASACP's executive director, told XBIZ that he agreed with the judge's decision in the case.

"Firstly, once an image or video is uploaded to the Internet for public consumption, clearly there is little to no expectation of privacy," he said. "Secondly, not only does the image in this case depict a crime — the creation, transmission and publication of the image are also crimes. There should be no expectation of privacy while committing crimes.

"Thirdly, the technology of GPS tagging of images, also known as geotagging, on smartphones has been in use for years and can be turned off. Further, geotagging information embedded in an image can also be removed. The fact that the individual in question did not realize this is pure ingnorance.

"Thankfully, as in this case, at least some pedophiles are not very bright."

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