Across the whole of America, you are continuously being monitored by local police forces using a secretive technology without any warrant, while you are completely oblivious to this and thinking that it’s just the NSA, according to media reports.
Local police are supported and encouraged by the government through latest technology assistance to vacuum up massive cellphone data, and the government is doing all it possibly could do to keep it under wraps, according to English daily The Guardian.
â€œThe Obama administration has been quietly advising local police not to disclose details about surveillance technology they are using to sweep up basic cellphone data from entire neighborhoods,â€ said The Associated Press.
Stingrays, cell site simulators or International Mobile Subscriber Identity catchers, have been utilized by the government to conduct surveillance indiscriminately. These devices act as fake cellphone towers and can be easily mounted on a mobile police truck. They can be instructed to force all cellphones within their range to connect to them and divulge identifying information, which makes the tracking an easy game for the cops even when you are not making a call.
The device is strong enough to penetrate the walls of homes and offices and collect information about the locations, phoneâ€™s identities, electronic serial numbers, directions and strength of phoneâ€™s signal as well as phoneâ€™s communications, i.e., the phone numbers they call to.
And when the local cops do not have Stingrays for some reasons, they collect the information from cellphone service providers. These technologies are not cheap and in cases when the government fails to provide them with the devices, it is the Defense Department and Homeland Security that grants them with USD 400,000 to purchase it from contractors like Harris Corporation that makes the Stingray brand.
This invasive surveillance has already been at odds with the civil liberties crowd and now several news agencies have revealed how the Obama administration is trying hard to keep its latest tool for mass surveillance a secret.
“These extreme secrecy efforts are in relation to very controversial, local government surveillance practices using highly invasive technology. If public participation means anything, people should have the facts about what the government is doing to them,” said Nathan Freed Wessler, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
The tactics used by the government to keep Stingray away from journalists and public is sometimes very disturbing, noted the ACLU staff attorney. In one particular incident, the ACLU was initially promised the information on Stingrays, but when the staff went down to the police station to collect it, they were informed that the US Marshals had hidden it elsewhere.
However, there is a silver lining; metadata tracking and mass collection of data may be forced to change. Recently, ACLU won a historic victory in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals (serving Florida, Albama and Georgia. The court ruled that police requires a warrant from a judge before it proceeds with extraction of data from your cell through a cell tower.
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