The Local Cops May Be Listening to Your Cell Phone Calls


This is scary:

Police across the country may be intercepting phone calls or text messages to find suspects using a technology tool known as Stingray. But they're refusing to turn over details about its use or heavily censoring files when they do.

Police say Stingray, a suitcase-size device that pretends it's a cell tower, is useful for catching criminals, but that's about all they'll say.

For example, they won't disclose details about contracts with the device's manufacturer, Harris Corp., insisting they are protecting both police tactics and commercial secrets. The secrecy — at times imposed by nondisclosure agreements signed by police — is pitting obligations under private contracts against government transparency laws.

Even in states with strong open records laws, including Florida and Arizona, little is known about police use of Stingray and any rules governing it.

Check this out:

Earlier this month, journalist Beau Hodai and the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona sued the Tucson Police Department, alleging in court documents that police didn't comply with the state's public-records law because they did not fully disclose Stingray-related records and allowed Harris Corp. to dictate what information could be made public….

A December 2013 investigation by USA Today found roughly 1 in 4 law enforcement agencies it surveyed had performed tower dumps, and slightly fewer owned a Stingray. But the report also said 36 additional agencies refused to provide details on their use, with most denying the newspaper's public-records requests.

Read the whole thing.

Hat tip: Michael Hewlett's Twitter feed.

More: J.D. Tuccille hipped us to Stingray technology back in 2012, writing that even if the cops have a warrant for a particular cell phone or individual, they cast a massive and imprecise net whenever they turn on the machine: "While a Stingray is in use, it also locates every other nearby mobile device sharing that network, potentially compromising the privacy of a great many people as collateral damage."

More hat tip: Mike Noyes' excellent Google+ feed.

NEXT: Isn't it Ironic: Government Surveillance Version (with Remy)

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  1. There is an even greater need for counter surveillance apps and tools to combat these fools and their disrespect of liberty.

    1. I’m still enamored with this personal anti-surveillance tool.…..nouncement

      1. “just look at these people they’re going to let us pick from in 2016”


  2. LAPD uses these, “investigates” every car that drives past one of their license-plate-reader equipped squad cars, and is rapidly expanding its network of surveillance cameras. The Panopticon is nearly complete.

    1. I can’t wait until LA goes bankrupt.

      1. Not
        to Cut

      2. I’m holding out hope for a more complete destruction.

    2. Pretty sure this is being done in North Carolina, too. Had an interesting experience several years ago, where cops pulled me over on obviously false grounds shortly after I had removed the battery from my phone. Maybe they freaked out that their trace had gone dark. (They didn’t charge me with anything, nor even give me a ticket. They aren’t entirely evil….)

      I’ve been removing the battery from my cell phone for years when it isn’t in use, because I received some tips that various groups were routinely tracking cell phones. Looks like those tips were correct.

      1. So…how do you receive phone calls?

        1. The old fashioned way.

  3. What tools do we have that can counter/mitigate this?

    1. Not many if you still want normal voice calls.

      Silent Circle would give encrypted voice-to-voice, I believe, but that doesn’t get you connected to the normal cell network. Various similar messaging apps, as well, and there are things you can do for data (even VPN)

      I’d love to know what effects there are when you connect to a stringray rather than a real tower. Makes me paranoid every time my phone acts weird.

    2. My cell phone calls go over my microcell when I’m at home. If I notice that AT&T’s signal suddenly gets stronger in my neighborhood, I’ll be suspicious.

      1. What’s a microcell?

        1. He probably has a cell signal device in his house jacked into his absurdly fast internet. We’re both in a dip that makes for bad for reception.

          1. Pcell will fix that!

    3. Switch to written correspondence and build a Faraday cage like Gene Hackman in ‘The Conversation’?

    4. We need end-to-end encryption for phones.

      Key exchange via NFC, manual, repository, etc.

      1. So…like RedPhone? I have RedPhone but I never use because no one else has it.

    5. Well, Android users, you might start with this:


      If you know where they’re doing it, you can just shut your phone off. Perhaps these devs can figure out a way to verify that you want to connect with an unknown tower?

      This app looks like it has a widget that updates when your tower changes.

      Network Signal Info

    6. Another Q: will Pcell make this and other surveillance techniques more difficult?

      1. Unless you’re moving while talking, no.

    7. Use a data driven voice app on your phone. Something like Google Voice. Although I don’t know for certain, the package they are using probably is designed specifically for standard voice usage.

      It would be interesting to find out what technologies they are spoofing. Can they do LTE or are they limited to 3G TDMA or 3G CDMA? Also, since you are still talking to your end destination, what backbone are they hooked into?

  4. Somehow I missed this Ted Nugent quote:

    “I don’t think they’re capable of either of those thoughts, you Limey a?hole. They’re only interested in three things: the best place to eat, having sex, and how quickly they can run away. Much like the French.” ? To a British journalist who asked him if he thought hunted deer see him as friend or foe.

    1. The Nug goin’ off on a limey, huh.

      I gots to get my ethnic slurs in order. Are Americans of English descent ‘Limeys’ too? If so, isn’t Nugent a limey?

      1. Limeys are associated with sailors of the Royal Navy who would suck on limes to prevent scurvy, so it’s really a nationalist slur rather than an ethnic one.

        1. Ah.

          You learn something new everyday. I knew that about the Royal Navy just didn’t know if it extended to Americans.

          Pejoratives tend to be elastic in scope.

        1. Hey Gil, just a quick comment on the Alfa. That was the point. It was a car constructed strictly for aesthetics. Top Gear pretty much made that clear. The design was the goal.

          Where design/engineering are concerned, cars I like include the works of Pinifarina and Zagato.

          1. Pininfarina.

      2. We had the good sense to end that relationship.

        This country don’t need no queens whatsoever, I reckon.

        1. Then why do we have one now?

    2. I got my physical notice 30 days prior to. Well, on that day I ceased cleansing my body. No more brushing my teeth, no more washing my hair, no baths, no soap, no water. Thirty days of debris build. I stopped shavin’ and I was 18, had a little scraggly beard, really looked like a hippie. I had long hair, and it started gettin’ kinky, matted up. Then two weeks before, I stopped eating any food with nutritional value. I just had chips, Pepsi, beer-stuff I never touched-buttered poop, little jars of Polish sausages, and I’d drink the syrup, I was this side of death, Then a week before, I stopped going to the bathroom. I did it in my pants. poop, piss the whole shot. My pants got crusted up.

    3. Ted Nugent:

      “I’ve been a cop in Lake County, Michigan, since 1982 thereabout. I conduct federal raids with the DEA and ATF and U.S. Marshals and the FBI and Texas Rangers.”

      What a freedom lover!

      1. Nugent is LITERALLY a piece of shit!

        1. Now my whole body is crusted in poop and piss. I was ill. And three or four days before, I started stayin’ awake. I was close to death, but I was in control. I was extremely antidrug as I’ve always been, but I snorted some crystal methedrine. Talk about one wounded motherf*cker. A guy put up four lines, and it was for all four of us, but I didn’t know and I’m vacuuming that poop right up. I was a walking, talking hunk of human poop.

      2. What he’s not a great patriot?

  5. I’m an officer and I’ve never heard of this (at least that’s what I’m supposed to say…lol). In all seriousness, I could see any use of this backfiring when it reached a courtroom simply because it appears to amount to unwarranted wiretapping. Am I wrong about this? How could any results from the use of this be considered anything but fruits from the poisonous tree?

    1. They don’t use it for trial evidence, but as a way to figure out where to look etc.

    2. parallel construction.

  6. Why spend money on one of these gizmos when they can just ask the NSA for the info and then conjure up fake evidence to cover for it?

    1. “Why spend money”

      DUH!? To justify needing even more later! The laws of Bureaucracy my friend = you spend more than you have so you can increase your budget. Anything you can spend on, you do.

      1. And so shall it be written in the “hey don’t make the same mistake of government again during the next revolution” book.

    2. Why spend money on one of these gizmos when they can just…



    3. They use these to check up on their spouses, girl/boy friends and corrupt cronies and probably to shake down people via asset forfeiture which BTW is now a $6bn plus annual LE industry with little oversight. Let’s not forget capturing the judiciary and AGs with incriminating evidence to win favorable rulings.

      No oversight, control, review or warrants issued for specific use. Systemic tyranny flows from the top down.

    4. Because if you don’t spend it, you don’t get it next year. PROGRESS!

  7. Dammit, I’m just going to go back to encrypted semaphore.

  8. So…which state has the best motto? Sic Semper Tyrannus? Live Free Or Die? Audemus Jura Nostra Defendere?

    And if you could change the United States seal and motto, what would it be to?

    1. I wouldn’t change the seal for my life. E pluribus unum is three words that approach poetry.

      1. I like it too, but what about Ben Franklin’s original suggestion: Rebellion to Tyrants is Obedience to God?

          1. Just add the AA catch all “as we understood him”

    2. Dona nobis mad punchem skills.

    3. If I could change the U.S. motto, I would change it to that of the Worshipful Company of World Traders:Commerce and Honest Friendship with All, which itself was taken from Thomas Jefferson.

    4. Kinda like what we’ve got.

      I’m very proud of the concept of America. The grand experiment lasted more than 200 years before it fell apart. The Founders were fucking geniuses, but it was the first time this was tried.

      I spend a lot of time thinking about what I’d change in the Constitution for the next go at it. I’ve actually considered rewriting it with my changes.

      I’m betting the next time we make it 300 years.

      1. You could rewrite it with all the lessons learned, yet it would still contain the seeds of its own destruction. The only things that guarantee liberty are self-reliance, self-ownership, and self-defense.

        1. I’ve come to believe all government will become tyrannical. Best you can do is constrain the shit out of it up front and see how long you can get out of it.

          We did pretty well until 1933.

          1. You know who did really well in 1933?

            1. The Golden Gate Bridge?

            2. Jimmie Foxx?


      2. I think the First and Second Amendments are the greatest examples of that genius.

        Freedom of speech, freedom of religion, separation of Church and State, and the right to keep and bear arms is the key to national harmony.

        The procedural protections in the other amendments with regard to due process were important, but as we’ve seen those can be chipped away it. The First and Second have held up remarkably well.

        1. …chipped away at?

          More like steamrolled, hammered and clusterfucked into “submission, peasant”.

      3. And my original question was just about mottoes. I personally think an implicit threat to overthrow/kill any tyrannical leaders that come about would have benefited our national character.

        The bald eagle is a great choice but original seal designs proposed in the 1780s also included an image of either an Indian warrior or an armed patriot holding a musket and a hatchet. Including one of those would have been pretty cool as well.

      4. The best change was suggested a few years back. End each amendment in the BoR with, “And we mean it.”

      5. The Constitution lasted precisely as long as the majority of the people wanted little from government other than it leave them alone. The moment that the temperance crowd showed the progressives what a bit of control could do, the thing started downhill.

        1. de Tocqueville called it. It’s hard to believe someone could be so accurate so far in the past.

          1. Human nature is remarkably consistent.

  9. Catholic League President Bill Donohue applies to be in NYC Gay Pride Parade and his application to carry a sign in saying “Straight is Great” is rejected because he’s a doggedly anti-gay asshole accepted.

    He immediately says that he’s not going to participate because he would have to go to “information sessions.” He says they’re gay training camps and the parade organizers say that they’re safety orientations that every group leader needs to attend.

    Original story here. Follow up that includes Bill pulling out here.

    He told NewsMax: “I don’t go to gay training sessions. I’m pretty much of an untrainable guy when it comes these things.”

    1. Studinski said in a statement. “Straight is great ? as long as there’s no hate.”

      Studinski then added, “As long as you masturbate, at a quarter past eight, to a girl named Kate, or a guy named Nate, who finished all the food on his plate, which he bought at a discounted rate that was his fate, as depicted on his bald pate…”

      1. Look mate, I’m running late and this farce has caused me to deflate.

        1. I just need to state, I’m quite irate.

          1. Oh great, do not hate. I would ablate that which made you irate.

            If I had an EDIT BUTTON!

        2. Wait! I’m not trying to bait or prevaricate; just elucidate.

          1. You all bloviate when you pontificate on the state of this comment slate.

          2. Hey don’t hate, just go home and masturbate. I know our rhymes make some of you irate, and to the girls your always late, they chill with us because you simply don’t rate. So leave us and go play with Tate, because that’s the only person your able to date in the whole damned state.

            And don’t forget to shut the effin gate!


      2. Queers will fornicate and co-habitate just like you will menstruate. This is not up for debate.

        1. One of Tosh’s better moments.

          1. That segued in excessively well.

          2. You mean Tosh has had a funny moment?

            1. His stand-up is pretty bad, but I enjoy Tosh.0.

    2. How quickly did he pull out?

      1. Less than a day. By Sting standards it’s kinda meh, but at least he aint no one minute man.

        1. If I believe Sting’s claims of endurance, his penis has a tough outer shell approximating rhino leather.

          1. Drugs.

  10. Ahhh Harris.

    Same company that does incredible business with military communications, made/makes a nice chunk of change selling seemingly reliable EDACS trunking systems to business and public safety agencies, and scammed hundreds of millions of out of the State of Pennsylvania, LV Metro PD, Milwaukee, and others with their craptastic OpenSky Trunking Radio System.

  11. Or there is this . In quo speramus loquor. My wafflebot would have been pissed if I didn’t mention that one.

    And then there is this one.

    Donec tincidunt ut lamia quod concupiscimus

    ……Scelesta, volo te scire


    1. Scelesta, volo te scire

      Metal as fuck!

  12. Imagine having a party line. I don’t know if they still have them. I had one not too many years ago.

    You pick up the handset and if some one is talking you can listen in. You have to wait for them to finish before you can dial.

    1. Because somebody actually went to the trouble…

    1. This is what you get when the government pays people not to work.

    1. why is the audio so loud

      1. Pump up the jam, brah!

        1. The welchs jam?

          Organic like the Britannic? Or some doomed shit like the Titanic? Why do you have to be so manic? I’m gonna bite you, so don’t panic.

          1. I don’t even have to click on that to know what it is.

            1. Let’s see if I can guess it…Spaceballs?

              1. and so it is

  13. I know it’s inconceivable to you young pups, but just don’t use a cell phone. Somehow the human race managed quite well without them for tens of thousands of years.

    1. Oh and get off my lawn!

    2. Young pups? How old do you think I am?

      It’s even easier to tap a wired phone.

      1. I don’t know. I have grandchildren, do you?

        1. I still have an unborn baby attached to Mrs. Manhattan.

          So you could have actually been in the Bureau of Sabotage?

        2. I knew people that had grandchildren by the time they were in their mid 30s.

    3. Or just pop out the battery, only put it in when you need to make a call. Best of both worlds.

  14. “According to their own video, which they uploaded, Joan Short videotaped Miller-Young without her consent. She and her sister harassed Miller-Young as she and the two students crossed a plaza and entered a building. The Short sisters followed her all the way into an elevator, where they sought to impede her ability to go to her office. Miller-Young repeatedly told these people to leave her alone and let her get onto the elevator, but they kept harassing her and refusing to let her enter the elevator and get away from them….

    “…On Fox News, Thrin Short commented, “I’m sorry if these signs offended her in any way but after all, she does show porn to her students so she’s not really the one to talk about offending images,” as if Miller-Young’s professional research on pornography can be equated with the incendiary imagery the Survivors group shows. In just a handful of examples, we see how the coded language of race operates to justify the intimidating actions of two young, white women. This kind of language is also a form of violence, drawing on histories of racism, sexism, and the regulation of Black women’s bodies.”…..J8.twitter

    1. Dr. Miller-Young shares her scholarship on NPR in 2007:

      “We have, like, a deep history that has kind of been articulated through homophobia and through erotophobia. And it’s understandable. I mean, you know, what Dr. Samuels was speaking of, that we have to understand from the beginning. Slavery existed as a sexual economy, and that black bodies have always been (unintelligible) both breeders and concubines. They have been erotic – kind of illicit erotic commodities in an economy that is built upon our labor.

      “And one of the ways in which black communities try to deal with that is through kind of this culture of dissemblance or scholars discuss it. Which is basically about disidentifying with sexuality, you know, in total, in order to protect their selves from that kind of symbolic and actual threat that, you know, being hypersexual posed, particularly, you know, for example, the kind of scapegoating of black people in lynching as being, you know, sexual animals.”…..d=10057104

      1. “Not only was it authentic frontier gibberish, it expressed a courage little seen in this day and age.”

  15. Are you sure it’s a thing to listen to cell phones, and not a futuristic, gadget filled crime fighting car?

  16. High tech surveillance? Hell, where I live, the local suburban cops generate plenty of income for their town. Well, the ones that border on Camden do. They just sit in their cars near the border and tag white dudes on their way into the city. Then they patiently wait with a half dozen or so Dunkin Donuts for them to drive out of the city. Then they pull them over, search the car, and arrest them for possession. In NJ, the standard is “reasonable suspicion”, which could mean just about anything. And yeah, we invented racial profiling. We even do it in reverse mode. In fact it’s better that way. Ain’t no white dude gonna complain about being racially profiled.

    1. The more I hear about stories like this, the more I appreciate living in a state where all fines and confiscated property go to the state government. This gives local cops less of an incentive to be assholes.

      1. Well, in the grand scheme of things, I’d rather deal with the nuisance of being given a ticket and let go. They only really fuck with you as much as you fuck with them. And since I went to school with half of them, they know me well enough to know that I’m not an asshole. One morning I got pulled over in the morning on my way to work for having a suspended license. He came up to the car and said, don’t worry, I’m not going to prevent you from getting to work. Just wait like 10 minutes after I leave to drive away. Now, the state troopers working out of the county prosecutor’s office are a totally different beast. They don’t give a fuck. I had 5 of them rip me out my car, and then proceeded to slam my head into the hood of the car because they said they saw me buy drugs. It’s kinda hard to buy drugs on the set when there’s nobody out there trappin’ at the time.

    2. To be fair, why else would a white guy go to Camden?

  17. nondisclosure agreements signed by police

    Illegal contract. Duh.

  18. Cone of Silence, bitches.

    -Maxwell Smart

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