Tag Archives: Privacy

School Implants Device In Student Without Parental Consent

School Implants Device In Student Without Parental Consent

A mother is irate after discovering that her daughter’s school had given her an implant under her skin without parental consent nearly a year after the procedure had taken place.

Bernadette Jessop was informed by her daughter, Layla Rylands, that she had been fitted for a contraceptive implant at her school, Ashwell Academy in England. The implant had been injected a mere four days after the young girl’s thirteenth birthday.

As any parent would be, Bernadette was furious upon hearing the news. She believes her daughter is too young for a contraceptive procedure to have taken place without her prior consent.

According to Hull Daily Mail, “The implant, a small rod that is inserted under the skin of the upper arm after a local anaesthetic has been applied, releases hormones into the body to prevent pregnancy.”

School Implants Device In Student Without Parental Consent, Mother IRATE

“The school asked me not long ago for my consent for her to watch a film about sex. I didn’t give my consent until I knew what the film contained, yet I don’t get the chance to give my consent for her to get the implant?” Bernadette explained. “When I found out I felt sick. At the end of the day, I’m her mum, and at that age, it is wrong.”

Apparently, sexual health workers visit schools in the Bransholme area to give contraceptive advice to teenagers. If a student is deemed “competent,” they are allowed to give the okay for the procedure without parental consent.

The only problem is the school Layla attends is for students with “complex academic and social needs.”

“Layla is in that school because she has behavior problems,” explained the irate mother. “How can you deem a child with problems competent to make that decision?”

School Implants Device In Student Without Parental Consent, Mother IRATE

Bernadette believes her daughter was too young to not only make that type of decision, but was not at an appropriate age to be discussing contraceptive issues with anyone other than her family.

“In a moment of madness I said yes. If I was a parent and my daughter had it and I didn’t know, I would be furious, just like my mum,” explained Layla. “I do think parents should know, but I was afraid to say and I had signed a form that said it was confidential.”

The only response the school has offered is that “the academy has a duty of care towards its students, some of whom are extremely vulnerable, and their health and well-being is of the highest concern to us.”

If the school needs to get consent from the parents to show a student an educational film about sex, it seems that implanting something into a teenager would also require a consent form. Bernadette has a right to be irate — as well as any other parents who are unaware of the school’s influence in their child’s contraceptive choices.

Baltimore Police used secret technology to track cellphones in thousands of case

Baltimore Police used secret technology to track cellphones in thousands of cases

Baltimore police often surveil cellphones amid US secrecy

The Baltimore Police Department has an agreement with the U.S. government to withhold certain information about secretive cellphone surveillance technology from the public and the courts.

By

The Baltimore Police Department has used an invasive and controversial cellphone tracking device thousands of times in recent years while following instructions from the FBI to withhold information about it from prosecutors and judges, a detective revealed in court testimony Wednesday.

The testimony shows for the first time how frequently city police are using a cell site simulator, more commonly known as a “stingray,” a technology that authorities have gone to great lengths to avoid disclosing.

The device mimics a cellphone tower to force phones within its range to connect. Police use it to track down stolen phones or find people.

Related:  See How This Spying Technoloyg, Stingray, works.

FBI Stingray device technology listening cell phones
FBI Stingray device

Until recently, the technology was largely unknown to the public. Privacy advocates nationwide have raised questions whether there has been proper oversight of its use.

Baltimore has emerged in recent months as a battleground for the debate. In one case last fall, a city detective said a nondisclosure agreement with federal authorities prevented him from answering questions about the device. The judge threatened to hold him in contempt if he didn’t provide information, and prosecutors withdrew the evidence.

The nondisclosure agreement, presented for the first time in court Wednesday, explicitly instructs prosecutors to drop cases if pressed on the technology, and tells them to contact the FBI if legislators or judges are asking questions.

Detective Emmanuel Cabreja, a member of the Police Department’s Advanced Technical Team, testified that police own a Hailstorm cell site simulator — the latest version of the stingray — and have used the technology 4,300 times since 2007.

Cabreja said he had used it 600 to 800 times in less than two years as a member of the unit.

Nate Wessler, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, said 4,300 uses is “huge number.” He noted that most agencies have not released data.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement says its officers have used the device about 1,800 times. Police in Tallahassee say they have used it more than 250 times; police in Tacoma, Wash., 170 times.

Former U.S. Judge Brian L. Owsley, a law professor at Indiana Tech, said he was “blown away” by the Baltimore figure and the terms of the nondisclosure agreement. “That’s a significant amount of control,” he said.

Agencies have invoked the nondisclosure agreement to keep information secret. At a hearing last year, a Maryland State Police commander told state lawmakers that “Homeland Security” prevented him from discussing the technology.

Wessler said the secrecy is upending the system of checks and balances built into the criminal justice system.

“In Baltimore, they’ve been using this since 2007, and it’s only been in the last several months that defense attorneys have learned enough to start asking questions,” he said. “Our entire judicial system and constitution is set up to avoid a ‘just trust us’ system where the use of invasive surveillance gear is secret.”

Cabreja testified Wednesday during a pretrial hearing in the case of Nicholas West, 21, and Myquan Anderson, 17. West and Anderson were charged in October 2013 with armed carjacking, armed robbery, theft and other violations stemming from an attack on a man in Federal Hill.

Cabreja took what he said was a copy of the nondisclosure agreement to court. It was dated July 2011 and bore the signatures of then-Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III and then-State’s Attorney Gregg Bernstein.

Defense attorney Joshua Insley asked Cabreja about the agreement.

“Does this document instruct you to withhold evidence from the state’s attorney and Circuit Court, even upon court order to produce?” he asked.

“Yes,” Cabreja said.

Cabreja did not comply with a defense subpoena to produce the device in court. He said he was barred from doing so by the nondisclosure agreement.

An FBI spokesman declined to comment on the technology or the document.

The signatories to the document agree that disclosing the existence of the stingray would “reveal sensitive technological capabilities possessed by the law enforcement community and may allow individuals who are the subject of investigation … to avoid detection.”

They agree that “disclosure of this information could result in the FBI’s inability to protect the public from terrorism and other criminal activity” by rendering the technology useless for investigations.

The signatories agree that if they receive a public records request or an inquiry from judges or legislators, they will notify the FBI immediately to allow “sufficient time for the FBI to intervene.”

Cabreja testified Wednesday that his unit received information about a stolen cellphone. He said detectives obtained a court order to get the phone’s general location using cellphone towers from a cellphone company.

With that information, detectives ventured out to the Waverly neighborhood with the Hailstorm. The device is portable and can be used from a moving vehicle. Cabreja likened it to a metal detector for cellphone signals.

The device forces cellphones to connect to it. In this case, it was a Verizon phone, so identifying information from every Verizon customer in the area was swept up.

Cabreja said the data was collected but “not seen.” Detectives were interested only in the target phone.
Cabreja said the device allows police to make a stronger signal emanate from the phone to help them find it.

“It, on screen, shows me directional arrows and signal strength, showing me the phone’s direction,” he testified.

The detectives traced the phone to a group home and knocked on the door. They told the woman who answered that they were conducting a general criminal investigation and asked to come inside, Cabreja said, and the woman agreed.

Seven detectives entered the home, he said. They used the Hailstorm to make the phone ring before anyone knew why they were really there.

Amid growing questions about the stingray, details of the technology have been trickling out of some jurisdictions, and it is now relatively easy to find descriptions online of what it does.

Insley, the defense attorney, called it the “worst-kept secret,” and questioned why local police continue to be gagged.

Cabreja took notes with him to court that he said came from a discussion last week in which the FBI coached him on what to say in court.

The talking points included: “Data is not retained.”
Cabreja did not refuse to answer any of Insley’s questions, but he said his answers were constrained by the nondisclosure agreement.

Defense attorneys and privacy advocates express concern about the scope of the stingray’s powers, and whether the courts are equipped to provide proper oversight of the police who use it. They argue that the use of the device amounts to a search and requires a warrant.

Baltimore police obtain court orders under the state’s “pen register” statute. Insley says that law authorizes police to capture only the numbers that are called or received by a phone, not the more detailed metadata and location information the stingray collects.

He said those orders also require a lower standard of proof than a search warrant, and judges are not aware of what they are authorizing.

“They’re basically duping these judges into signing authorizations to use stingrays,” Insley said. “If they can increase the signal strength of your phone or make it ring, they can pretty much make it do anything.”

But prosecutors say the language in the orders authorizes real-time GPS location, and Cabreja testified that police only use the stingray to find “target” phones and not to spy on the innocent.

In Maryland U.S. District Court last fall, an argument about the stingray device was cut short when the suspects took plea deals. And on Wednesday, following Cabreja’s testimony, prosecutors and defense attorneys entered into plea negotiations instead of debating the merits of the stingray further.

In cases where the stingray becomes a sticking point, Wessler said, “defense attorneys are being able to get really good deals for their clients, because the FBI is so insistent on hiding all of these details.”

“There are likely going to be a lot of defense attorneys in Baltimore who may have an opportunity to raise these issues,” Wessler said. “They are on notice now that their clients may have some arguments to make in these cases.”

A year after firestorm, DHS wants access to license-plate tracking system

A year after firestorm, DHS wants access to license-plate tracking system

A police car in Alexandria, Va., that has been equipped with a license-plate scanner. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)

By Ellen Nakashima

The Department of Homeland Security is seeking bids from companies able to provide law enforcement officials with access to a national license-plate tracking system — a year after canceling a similar solicitation over privacy issues.

The reversal comes after officials said they had determined they could address concerns raised by civil liberties advocates and lawmakers about the prospect of the department’s gaining widespread access, without warrants, to a system that holds billions of records that reveal drivers’ whereabouts.

In a privacy impact assessment issued Thursday, the DHS says that it is not seeking to build a national database or contribute data to an existing system.

Instead, it is seeking bids from companies that already gather the data to say how much they would charge to grant access to law enforcement officers at Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a DHS agency. Officials said they also want to impose limits on ICE personnel’s access to and use of the data.

“These restrictions will provide essential privacy and civil liberty protections, while enhancing our agents’ and officers’ ability to locate and apprehend suspects who could pose a threat to national security and public safety,” DHS spokeswoman Marsha Catron said in a statement. The solicitation was posted publicly Thursday.

Privacy advocates who reviewed a copy of the privacy impact assessment said it fell short.

“If this goes forward, DHS will have warrantless access to location information going back at least five years about virtually every adult driver in the U.S., and sometimes to their image as well,” said Gregory T. Nojeim, senior counsel for the Center for Democracy & Technology.

Commercial license-plate tracking systems already are used by the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration, as well as some local and state law enforcement agencies. Law enforcement groups say the fears of misuse are overblown. But news of the DHS solicitation triggered a public firestorm last year, leading Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to cancel it and order a review of the privacy concerns raised by advocates and lawmakers.

Over the following months, ICE and DHS privacy officials developed policies aimed at increasing “the public’s trust in our ability to use the data responsibly,” according to a senior DHS privacy officer. The DHS is the first federal agency, officials said, to issue a privacy assessment on such a solicitation.

Commercial license-plate-tracking systems can include a variety of data. Images of plate numbers are generally captured by high-speed cameras that are mounted on vehicles or in fixed locations. Some systems also capture images of the drivers and passengers.

The largest commercial database is owned by Vigilant Solutions, which as of last fall had more than 2.5 billion records. Its database grows by 2.7 million records a day.

DHS officials say Vigilant’s database, to which some field offices have had access on a subscription basis, has proved valuable in solving years-old cases. Privacy advocates, however, are concerned about the potential for abuse and note that commercial data banks generally do not have limits on how long they retain data.

ICE said it will restrict agents’ access to the data to the number of years corresponding to the relevant statute of limitations for any crime being investigated. For civil immigration cases, where there is no statute of limitations, the agency is adopting a five-year limit, officials said.

ICE officers and agents also will be required to enter the type of crime associated with each query to gain access to the database, and there will be random audits to ensure that no one is using the database to look up information on personal associates. Officers and agents may search only for particular plate numbers.

ICE queries will not be shared with other agencies, unless they are working on a joint investigation, a senior DHS official said. ICE personnel also will be able to put plate numbers of interest on an “alert list,” enabling those personnel to be notified almost instantly when a plate is spotted.

Ginger McCall, director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center’s Open Government Project, said the new safeguards are not “meaningful.” She called the data retention requirements “exceedingly vague” and said tracking a person through alert lists without a warrant is troubling.

The senior DHS privacy officer said case law does not require the government to seek a warrant for such data.

“This is a step in the right direction, but it’s not nearly strong enough, given the particular acute privacy and civil liberties issues implicated by locational data,” McCall said.

Facebook accused of tracking all users even if they delete accounts or ask never to be followed

Facebook accused of tracking all users even if they delete accounts or ask never to be followed

Network tracks its users so that it can give them more tailored advertising

ANDREW GRIFFIN

A new report claims that Facebook secretly installs tracking cookies on users’ computers, allowing them to follow users around the internet even after they’ve left the website, deleted their account and requested to be no longer followed.

Academic researchers said that the report showed that the company was breaking European law with its tracking policies. The law requires that users are told if their computers are receiving cookies except for specific circumstances.

Facebook’s tracking — which it does so that it can tailor advertising — involves putting cookies or small pieces of software on users’ computers, so that they can then be followed around the internet. Such technology is used by almost every website, but European law requires that users are told if they are being given cookies or being tracked. Companies don’t have to tell users if the cookies are required to connect to a service or if they are needed to give the user information that they have specifically requested.

But Facebook’s tracking policy allows it to track users if they have simply been to a page on the company’s domain, even if they weren’t logged in. That includes pages for brands or events, which users can see whether or not they have an account.

Facebook disputes the accusations of the report, it told The Independent.

“This report contains factual inaccuracies,” a Facebook spokesperson said. “The authors have never contacted us, nor sought to clarify any assumptions upon which their report is based. Neither did they invite our comment on the report before making it public.

“We have explained in detail the inaccuracies in the earlier draft report (after it was published) directly to the Belgian DPA, who we understand commissioned it, and have offered to meet with them to explain why it is incorrect, but they have declined to meet or engage with us. However, we remain willing to engage with them and hope they will be prepared to update their work in due course”.

The report does not have any legal standing, and was written by independent academics.

With respect to its European data, Facebook is regulated by the Irish Data Protection Commissioner, who checks that Facebook is acting within the EU’s Data Protection Directive. As part of that regulation, Facebook is regularly audited.

Facebook has a page on its site that gives users’ information about cookies and how they are used on the network. The company makes clear that cookies are used for the purposes of advertising and other functions, and that users can opt out of such tracking if they wish to.

Is NYC’s new gunshot detection system recording private conversations?

Is NYC’s new gunshot detection system recording private conversations?

Michael Brown in Ferguson Missouri shot dead

As Tyrone Lyles lay dying from a gunshot wound on an East Oakland street in 2007, he let out a few last words that would ultimately help authorities convict his killer.

“Why you done me like that, Ar?” he pleaded. “Ar, why you do me like that, dude?”

The exchange, which was used in court, was recorded by ShotSpotter, a gunshot detection system that has been installed in over 90 cities across the country. By placing a series of microphones around high-crime neighborhoods, the system is able to pinpoint the location of where a gunshot took place with surprising accuracy, leading to faster response times from police.

This week, 300 of the microphones were activated in Brooklyn and the Bronx as part of a citywide pilot program.

“Today, we are rolling out cutting edge technology to make the city safer, to make our neighborhoods safer, to keep our officers safer,” NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio said in an appearance with police commissioner William J. Bratton to announce the initiative. “This gunshot detection system is going to do a world of good in terms of going after the bad guys.”

But cases in which microphones have picked up incriminating evidence have raised the eyebrows of privacy advocates, who note that there could be Fourth Amendment implications.

“We are always concerned about secondary uses of technology that is sold to us for some unobjectionable purpose and is then used for other purposes,” Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project, told Take Part. “If [ShotSpotter] is recording voices out in public, it needs to be shut down.”

A 2013 investigation of ShotSpotter devices in Newark, NJ, found that 75 percent of the gunshot alerts had been for false alarms.– WNYC

On its website, ShotSpotter claims that its microphones “do not have the ability to overhear normal speech or conversations on public streets,” and says that it does not offer an audio livestreaming service for police departments. Only two seconds before a gunshot and four seconds after a gunshot are recorded, the company claims.

“In all cases [where voices have been recorded], the words were yelled loudly, in a public place, at the scene of a gunfire-related crime, and within a few seconds of that event,” the company writes. “The simple fact is that there has never been a case of a private conversation overheard or monitored by any ShotSpotter sensor anywhere at any time. Period.”

However, the company’s microphones have a history of not being as precise as the company claims. A 2013 WNYC investigation of ShotSpotter devices in Newark, NJ, found that 75 percent of the gunshot alerts had been for false alarms, meaning that audio clips were taken when there is likely no crime in progress. In those instances, police were still deployed to the area.

In the most recent case of a ShotSpotter voice recording being used in a criminal trial, the microphones picked up parts of a street argument just before a murder in New Bedford, Connecticut. “No, Jason! No, Jason!” someone could be heard in the recording before shots were fired. Two men—Jason Denison and Jonathan Flores were arrested and convicted of the murder. Though other evidence was presented at trial, the audio recording was used to corroborate the witness testimony.

It’s hard to argue with that outcome, but the case does bring some troubling questions to mind. If there was never gunfire, would law enforcement officials still have had access to that audio recording of the argument? How would they have used or acted upon it? And if such a large amount of ShotSpotter calls are for false alarms, how much ambient noise from the neighborhood are police at headquarters listening in to?

At the time, ShotSpotter spokeswoman Lydia Barrett emphasized how rare it was that the devices had picked up an argument.

“This is a very unusual circumstance if (the sensors) actually picked up any voices,” Barrett said. “In particular, I can’t ever remember in the history of our technology the sensors ever hearing a fight or some kind of argument going on.”

“There is no expectation of privacy on the street when you’re outside yelling on a public street,” Former Bristol County District Attorney C. Samuel Sutter (who is now the city’s Mayor) said about the New Bedford case, noting that the confrontation woke up neighbors even before shots rang out.

In New York City, Letitia James, the city’s public advocate, has introduced a bill to the city council to require quarterly reports on the data gathered by the new systems in Brooklyn and the Bronx. There has not been any legislation looking at the privacy implications of the technology.

Reporter Interviews Edward Snowden, Dies Suddenly Later That Night

Reporter Interviews Edward Snowden, Dies Suddenly Later That Night

By 

[Watch] Reporter Interviews Edward Snowden, Dies Suddenly Later That Night

Described as the finest media reporter of his generation, remarkable and funny, and a leader in the newsroom, New York Time‘s columnist David Carr, 58, was remembered by his colleagues after he collapsed in the newsroom and died suddenly last Thursday night.

Earlier in the evening on the day Carr died, he had moderated a TimesTalks discussion ofCitizenFour, the Oscar nominated documentary about whistle-blower Edward Snowden, the man who gave up life as he knew it to expose the global surveillance program perpetrated by the United States government.

“For now, know that every border you cross, every purchase you make, every call you dial, every cell phone tower you pass, friend you keep, site you visit, subject line you type, is in the hands of a system whose reach is unlimited but who’s safeguards are not. In the end if you publish this source material I will likely be immediately implicated.” – Edward Snowden, CitizenFour

[Watch] Reporter Interviews Edward Snowden, Dies Suddenly Later That Night

The discussion panel was comprised of Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who first published Snowden’s findings, Academy Award nominee and Pulitzer prize-winning director Laura Poitras, and Edward Snowden, who attended via live video feed from Russia.

Watch Carr’s last interview:

During the interview, Carr asked Snowden how he felt about putting his life at stake.

“I think everyone involved has paid some cost or another,” Snowden humbly replied.  “I can’t live with my family nowadays, I can’t go back to my home.. there’s a lot of things, but it’s incredibly satisfying to be a part of something larger than yourself. And there is a tremendous sense of peace that comes from doing what you believe is the right thing to do.”

Later, Carr asked Greenwald about our world ranking in relation to freedom of the press.Reporters Without Borders finds that the United States sits in the high 40’s in the rankings; edged out by El Salvador, Botswana, and France, just to name a few. The ranking of some countries has been affected by a tendency to interpret national security needs in an overly broad and abusive manner to the detriment of the right to inform and be informed. This trend constitutes a growing threat worldwide and is even endangering freedom of information in countries regarded as democracies, such as the United States.

“We are leading the free world from the rank of 49.” Greenwald commented sarcastically.

Also mentioned, Snowden waited before he leaked the NSA’s spying protocol. He wanted to see what Obama was really all about, if he was truly serious about a transparent presidency or not. Carr had also wondered. They came to the conclusion that Obama’s administration is the worst in our history in terms of transparency.

During the interview’s wrap-up, free options that ordinary citizens can use to keep their privacy more secure by protecting their transmissions were mentioned, such as phone encryption and the TOR browser.

Snowden then candidly reminded watchers that if the government targets you specifically, they won’t just catch things as they pass by on the Internet, they will embed themselves into your devices; your smart phone, your computer, even ‘your new Samsung tv, they’re listening to you as it sits in your living room.’

Snowden insisted that we need to create standards that protect everyone and we need to enforce them. Also, we need to enforce our rights. Snowden called on companies like Googleand Facebook to stand up and protect their users rights, saying, “If the government wants to investigate someone, they need to do it the old-fashioned way.”

[Watch] Reporter Interviews Edward Snowden, Dies Suddenly Later That Night

An autopsy has since revealed that David Carr died from complications from lung cancer and heart disease. His conversational, analytic, and humorous writing style will be missed by his readers and colleagues. He was a reporter’s reporter, Carr didn’t just write about journalism — he practiced it, taking on media heavyweights with in-depth pieces that exposed wrongdoing.

FBI Says Doesn’t Need Warrant To Track Your Cell Phone

FBI Says Doesn’t Need Warrant To Track Your Cell Phone

Practically nothing to protect citizens’ Fourth Amendment rights

The FBI Says It Doesn’t Need a Warrant to Track Your Cell Phone in Public

The FBI claims that it doesn’t need a warrant to use so-called Stingray cell-phone tracking technology in public spaces, according to two US Senators raising privacy concerns over use of the devices.

Stingrays and similar devices intercept data by emulating a cell phone tower, say privacy groups. With the briefcase-size technology, police can identify and locate cell phone users in a general area or search for a specific person while also vacuuming upmetadata from phones.

The FBI recently settled on a new policy surrounding the use of Stingrays and similar technology that requires agents to obtain a warrant before using the technology in a criminal investigation. However, the policy includes such broad exceptions that privacy advocates worry they do practically nothing to protect citizens’ Fourth Amendment rights.

The new policy was first revealed by former Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy and the then ranking Republican on the committee, Chuck Grassley—who has since become chairman—in a letter to the Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security released at the end of December.

In the letter, Leahy and Grassley question whether law enforcement agencies using cell-phone-tracking technology “have adequately considered the privacy interests of other individuals who are not targets of the inception, but whose
information is nevertheless being collected when these devices are used.”

The Wall Street Journal reported in November that the US Marshals Service was using cell-phone-tracking technology in small aircraft to search for criminal suspects, sweeping up thousands of other cell phone signals in the process.

Law enforcement agencies purchase Stingrays and similar devices—technically called International Mobile Subscriber Identity catchers—through federal grants under the auspices of anti-terrorism operations. Police say the technology can also be used for search-and-rescue operations, in kidnapping situations, and disaster response.

According to Leahy and Grassley, the FBI’s new policy contains an exception for “cases that pose an imminent danger to public safety, cases that involve a fugitive, or cases in which the technology is used in public places or other locations at which the FBI deems there is no reasonable expectation of privacy.”

Hanni Fakhoury, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said in a statement to VICE that it “seems that a carve out to allow the FBI to use an IMSI catcher in public without a warrant is an exception that swallows the rule.”

Fakhoury said the FBI’s new policy is “a good first step towards transparency, but there need to be a lot more information made public about how these devices are used.

“First, what was happening before the change in policy?” Fakhoury continued. “If the new policy requires the FBI to get a warrant to use the device but has an exception for when the device is in public use, does that mean the feds were using IMSI catchers to capture signals emanating from the home, a place clearly protected by the Fourth Amendment? Second, what is the requirement for FBI’s use of these devices in public places, which is presumably where the bulk of these devices are used?”

Leahy and Grassley are pressing the Justice Department for more details on the privacy implications of the technology.

“The Judiciary Committee needs a broader understanding of the full range of law enforcement agencies that use this technology, the policies in place to protect the privacy interests of those whose information might be collected using these devices, and the legal process that DOJ and DHS entities seek prior to using them,” Leahy and Grassley wrote in their letter to Attorney General Eric Holder and DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson.

Reports of police departments using Stingrays first surfaced in December 2013, whenUSA Today reported that cell phone surveillance technology originally designed for the US military was finding its way into state and local police departments across the country.

Since that report, the ACLU has unearthed public records showing police departments and federal law enforcement in 19 states and the District of Columbia are using IMSI catchers.

Transparency groups and news organizations trying to dig up more information on Stingrays have been stymied by an aggressive effort from federal agents, local police departments, and the company that manufactures the devices.

Earlier this year in Sarasota, Florida, the US Marshals Service confiscated records on Stingray surveillance from a courthouse just hours before the records were due to be handed over to the ACLU.

In September, a public records request revealed state and local police must sign a non-disclosure agreement with the FBI, keeping details of the devices secret.

Prosecutors in Baltimore went so far as to toss key evidence in a case rather than reveal details of how police used a Stingray to track the defendant.

The FBI and DHS did not immediately respond to requests for comment. In a statement to VICE, the Justice Department said only that it is reviewing Leahy and Grassley’s letter, which calls for a response to their concerns by the end of the month.

Follow CJ Ciaramella on Twitter.

FBI Not Obtaining Search Warrants When Ease Dropping On Everyone’s Cellphones

FBI Not Obtaining Search Warrants When Ease Dropping On Everyone’s Cellphones

Agency claims citizens’ cell phone data up for grabs
FBI Stingray device technology listening cell phones
FBI Stingray device

Two U.S. Senators attempting to investigate government use of cellphone interceptors, commonly referred to as “Stingrays,” have confirmed that no search warrants are obtained when FBI agents use the devices in public.

Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) discovered the startling information last year during a private briefing in which agency officials laid out a list of warrant exemptions.

In a letter to Homeland Security Chief Jeh Johnson and Attorney General Eric Holder, both Senators expressed their concerns over the wildly broad exemptions and questioned whether seperate government agencies were following the same policy.

For example, we understand that the FBI’s new policy requires FBI agents to obtain a search warrant whenever a cell-site simulator is used as part of a FBI investigation or operation, unless one of several exceptions apply, including (among others): (1) cases that pose an imminent danger to public safety, (2) cases that involve a fugitive, or (3) cases in which the technology is used in public places or other locations at which the FBI deems there is no reasonable expectation of privacy.

FBI Stingray device technology listening cell phones
Regardless of the guideline, the FBI has failed to explain how they protect cell users on private property when bulk collecting in public.

“We have concerns about the scope of the exceptions,” the letter states. “Specifically, we are concerned about whether the FBI and other law enforcement agencies have adequately considered the privacy interests of other individuals who are not the targets of the interception, but whose information is nevertheless being collected when these devices are being used.”

The letter goes on to demand answers on how often the FBI and other agencies use Stingrays and what, if any, safeguards are in place to protect the data of innocent Americans.

“Across all DOJ and DHS entities, what protections exist to safeguard the privacy interests of individuals who are not the targets of interception, but whose information is nevertheless being collected by cell-site simulators?” the letter asks.

Despite claims from government entities that Stingrays are only used to investigate high-profile crimes, continued exposure on the topic proves the complete opposite to be true.

Police scanner audio obtained by the hacktivist group Anonymous last month appeared to reveal that Chicago police were using a Stingray to intercept phone calls from an Eric Garner protester.

A police department in Washington state, which claimed that it only used a Stingray to investigate crimes such as homicide, rape and kidnapping, used the device to track a missing city laptop according to a report last August.

City Council members who initially approved the department’s acquisition of the Stingray were told by police that the device was simply for “detecting IEDs,” ignoring the device’s main purpose regarding cell data.

Law enforcement groups in California have already begun applying for even more powerful cell interceptors known as “Hailstorms.”

On the federal level, government agencies have gone as far as equipping airplanes with cell interceptors to harvest cellular data from the sky.

Despite the federal government’s best attempts to hide its surveillance activities from judges, the public and the Legislative, Americans for the first time are beginning to realize the scope of the US surveillance state.

FBI Director Warns Against New Phone Encryption Technology

FBI Director Warns Against New Phone Encryption Technology

by Reuters
iPhone, mobile, smartphone, millennial, apple

U.S. FBI Director James Comey on Thursday made his strongest comments yet about encryption features built into new cell phones by Google (GOOG) and Apple (AAPL), warning they could hurt law enforcement efforts to crack homicide and child exploitation cases.

Speaking before an audience at the Brookings Institution, Comey said the new phones, which limit the ability for the companies themselves to access data stored on the units, have “the potential to create a black hole for law enforcement.”

FBI agents have in the past been able to access information stored on cell phones with a court order forcing the company to retrieve the information.

Comey said FBI agents have come across a growing number of cases they believe evidence sat on a phone or a laptop which they were unable to crack, though did not provide specific examples.

“If this becomes the norm, I suggest to you that homicide cases could be stalled, suspects walked free, child exploitation not discovered and prosecuted,” he said.

Comey also urged Congress to update the law that governs law enforcement’s ability to intercept communications, which was enacted two decades ago and does not address some newer technologies.