Why Are Officials Using Fake Cell Towers to Access Information?


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After the Supreme Court made the decision that federal investigators and other law enforcement agencies were no longer allowed to use information from GPS tracking without a warrant, officials found another way to keep an eye on potential criminals. They did this by using a device that mimics the technology of a cell tower. Clarence Walker of Global Research explained that, “The new surveillance technology is the StingRay (also marketed as Triggerfish, IMSI Catcher, Cell-site Simulator or Digital Analyzer), a sophisticated, portable spy device able to track cell phone signals inside vehicles, homes and insulated buildings. StingRay trackers act as fake cell towers, allowing police investigators to pinpoint location of a targeted wireless mobile by sucking up phone data such as text messages, emails and cell-site information.”

The way the StingRay works is by tricking the cell phone into thinking it’s communicating with a nearby cell tower, but instead it sends the signal back to the police. However, this device doesn’t just gather data from the targeted cell phone, it receives information from thousands of other untargeted cell phones in the area. When the StingRay technology isn’t available, officials are making requests to the carriers for their data. Sen. Edward Markey led the investigation that found that federal, state and local law enforcement agencies made more than 9,000 requests last year to harvest cell tower data. The Massachusetts Democrat has legislation that would require a warrant to obtain GPS location data, limit how long phone companies can keep the data and require law enforcement to disclose data requests. (Source: Merced Sun-Star)

As of today, there is no process in place that officials must follow before making a request for cell tower data. This is one of the major concerns to many because anyone can receive this information by going through few, if any, security measures. Many Americans are outraged by the amount of data authorities are collecting on a daily basis, seeing as the Fourth Amendment guarantees protection against unreasonable search and seizures. While this data has been helpful locating criminals or missing people, many feel that it’s getting out of hand. It’s no doubt that this will continue to be an issue, especially as the usage of smart phones and other wireless devices skyrockets.

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