U.S. Justice Department Accused of Using Fake Cell Towers on Planes to Gather Data From Phones

Discussion in 'Politics, Religion, Social Issues' started by MacRumors, Nov 13, 2014.

  1. MacRumors macrumors bot


    Apr 12, 2001

    The United States Justice Department has been using fake communications towers installed in airplanes to acquire cellular phone data for tracking down criminals, reports The Wall Street Journal. The program has reportedly been in place since 2007 and uses Cessna airplanes that operate out of "at least five" metropolitan-area airports.

    Aircraft in the program out outfitted with "dirtbox" devices produced by Boeing that are designed to mimic cellular towers, fooling cellphones into reporting "unique registration information" to track down "individuals under investigation." According to the WSJ, these devices let investigators gather "identifying information and general location" data from thousands of cellular phones in one flight, and Apple's encryption policies don't prevent the collection of data.

    The fake tower devices are able to interrupt calls on "certain phones," with authorities attempting to minimize harm by ensuring they doesn't interrupt emergency calls, and the technology can pinpoint a suspect's cellphone location down to three meters.

    The program is run by the U.S. Marshals Service, and some individuals involved have raised concerns about the legality of the operation and "if there are effective procedures" in place to safeguard the handling of data acquired, as it is said to capture data from thousands of non-criminal individuals as well.

    It is not known how often the flights take place as the WSJ's sources did not divulge that information, but they reportedly "take place on a regular basis." Justice Department officials did not confirm or deny the existence of the program when questioned, stating that a discussion of the matter could "allow criminal suspects or foreign powers to determine U.S. surveillance capabilities," but a representative said that Justice Department agencies comply with federal law and seek court approval for their activities.

    A Verizon spokesperson said that the company was not aware of such a program and did not participate, while spokespeople from AT&T and Sprint declined to comment.

    Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

    Article Link: U.S. Justice Department Accused of Using Fake Cell Towers on Planes to Gather Data From Phones
  2. aaronvan Suspended


    Dec 21, 2011
    República Cascadia
    They're actually "DRT boxes" and pronounced dirt-boxes. We used 'em all over AFPAK and Iraq.

  3. Menopause macrumors 6502a


    Feb 26, 2011
  4. LucasLand macrumors 6502a


    Mar 6, 2002
    New England
    our enemies don't have borders anymore. if it means capturing the next terrorist and their cell, go for it. I'm not doing anything wrong, so i'm not worried
  5. Populism Suspended


    Jun 11, 2014
  6. R3k macrumors 6502a

    Sep 7, 2011
    Sep 7, 2011
    There is probably something you're doing wrong.
  7. Populism Suspended


    Jun 11, 2014
    You're holding it wrong.
  8. Tech198 macrumors G5

    Mar 21, 2011
    Australia, Perth
    new this was too good to be true..

    Just one more way the governments can track you,, that's all it is...

    And its supposed to be convenient..

    I wouldn't bet this is true,,,, Governments are cable of anything, If is fake, then shame on them.

    Look out NSA.. more juicy stuff is coming your way.

    This is why i would never phone calls or take any on a plane.... I'm relaxing here,,, u cannot relax if u'r been pestered by your boss.
  9. jeblis macrumors regular

    Jun 13, 2012
    If you're not doing anything wrong then I suppose you don't mind letting police into your home and letting them search your phone, email and hard drives. Shouldn't be a problem. You're not doing anything wrong, you don't have anything to hide.
  10. richardsonrs macrumors regular

    Jul 1, 2010
    Since I am not doing anything wrong there is no need for that.. see how that works? Without probable cause they can't do that. With probable cause they can anyway whether you like it or not so...
  11. danielsutton macrumors regular

    Jun 13, 2011
    Law enforcement agencies still need to get court warrants before they can conduct this kind of surveillance, so it is not like our constitutional rights are being violated.
  12. budselectjr macrumors 6502a

    Oct 6, 2009
    Similar to the "Stingray" the Secret Service and others use. Watch the battery drain if you are near the President if he ever comes to you city.
  13. WissMAN macrumors regular


    Jun 19, 2009
    Lone Star state
    I bet if I tried this I would be arrested. What makes them different?
  14. x-evil-x macrumors 68040


    Jul 13, 2008
  15. Tech198 macrumors G5

    Mar 21, 2011
    Australia, Perth
    My sister says the same thing... which is not the point...

    It's privacy.... the word wouldn't exist and not even mean anyting, if you allow everyone access to your stuff.

    Which is why users use VPN's. Yes they are hiding something, but its because of privacy is needed, not just a word everyone makes up because it sounds good.

    The same applies to everyone.... you shouldn't choose who has access to what based on when higher ups.'

    to me, privacy is privacy.. unlike most people who get scared just because the police wanna know something,,, to me,,, the moment u hand it over, its no longer "private' , its known by someone else.

    I do give info up, but only when i decide to, regardless who it it....
  16. JeffyTheQuik macrumors 68020


    Aug 27, 2014
    Charleston, SC and Everett, WA
    I don't trust a government that doesn't trust me with a phone.
  17. richardsonrs macrumors regular

    Jul 1, 2010
    Is this a real question??
  18. Lazy macrumors 6502

    May 27, 2003
    Silicon Valley
    You've got that backwards. More dropped calls when this interrupts one. Or you can't make a call at first when your phone connects to this instead of a real cell phone tower.
  19. japanime macrumors 68000


    Feb 27, 2006
    I could see this being useful in a sting operation targeting drug dealers, for instance. But what about a mass shooting, where eyewitnesses might have a chance to call police from their cell phones to provide information about the whereabouts of the shooter? Will those "emergency calls" truly be uninterrupted? If not, then the approach could be doing more harm than good.
  20. richardsonrs macrumors regular

    Jul 1, 2010
    If I had to guess this is used in a targeted manner. They have info someone is near here, fly over and see. Doubtful that this is on all the time.
  21. jeblis macrumors regular

    Jun 13, 2012
    The problem is that this surveillance is overly broad. It tracks all cell phones in an area. There needs to be protections that this can only be used on a specific phone with a specific court order. Any other data collected must be immediately destroyed.
  22. Radio macrumors 68000

    Mar 5, 2012
    Central California
    This seems excessive

    I often wonder if this sort of surveillance was inevitable post 9/11 or not.

    Yet people will be okay with this because fear drives this.
  23. elvisimprsntr macrumors 6502

    Jul 17, 2013
    As long as they have a court issued search warrant for a specific cell phone, then any information "inadvertantly" collected would therefore be inadmissable in court as it would have been illegally obtained. If it keeps criminals off the streets, I don't see a problem with it.
  24. nagromme macrumors G5


    May 2, 2002
    Do governments ever target people who are doing nothing wrong? Do government employees ever target their enemies, ex-lovers or business competitors?

    Obviously you must trust all current leaders and employees of government to do the right thing and never target the innocent. And obviously you do NOT trust all past leaders and employees, since they've proven the opposite (from locking up American citizens and killing their pets because they looked Japanese, to framing political targets for things they didn't do, etc.).

    Leaving the question: do you trust all future leaders and employees?
  25. ThunderSkunk macrumors 68030


    Dec 31, 2007
    Colorado & Ontario
    As if I needed more reason to become a luddite.

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