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Government Cellphones Communications Privacy

IRS: We Used Stingray Devices To Track 37 Phones (arstechnica.com) 63

An anonymous reader writes: In October, we discussed the troubling revelation that the U.S. Internal Revenue Service had its own stingray devices, which are commonly used by law enforcement to intercept phone signals and track criminal suspects. The IRS has now addressed these allegations (PDF), confirming that they do indeed have one of the devices, and are trying to get a second. The agency said it tracked 37 phones across 11 different grand jury investigations, and the devices were also used in four non-IRS investigations. They say, "IRS use of cell-site simulation technology is limited to the federal law enforcement arm of the IRS, our Criminal Investigation division. Only trained law enforcement agents have used cell-site simulation technology, carrying out criminal investigations in accordance with all appropriate federal and state judicial procedures."
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IRS: We Used Stingray Devices To Track 37 Phones

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  • by jmd ( 14060 )

    Yea. Right

  • Seriously, there need to be strict rules against spying...but those who cheat society by not paying there fair share in taxes deserve the worst the government who enables them to profit can offer.

    • by rgmoore ( 133276 )

      Seriously, there need to be strict rules against spying

      More realistically, there need to be strict rules restricting spying. The government does have a real, if limited, need to spy on people as part of enforcing the law. That's what the 4th Amendment is supposed to be about: keeping the spying within strict limits necessary to enforce the law. I assume what I assume the IRS means when they talk about "carrying out criminal investigations in accordance with all appropriate federal and state judicial proc

    • Evidently, there isn't any actual law and/or precedent indicating how to use Stingray's. It is a POLICY decision. This week, we happen to choose to get warrants to use it. Next week, who knows. There might be an emergency situation.

      But even if it were, hypothetically, "illegal", the only entity that can do anything about it is Congress, and they won't.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Taxes are necessary for any society, but I can see why people want to "cheat" the system when they are getting taxed upon already taxed income multiple layers deep.

      The IRS needs to set a single flat tax and cut the nickel and dime, fingers in every pie model that they currently have. There also needs to be a way for people to steer where their taxes go or don't go amongst a voted upon list of societal needs.

      • The IRS doesn't set taxes. If you are a US citizen, write your senators and congressman. If you aren't a US citizen, do so in your own damn country.

        Giving people the ability to direct where funding goes means nothing gets fully funded. Good luck with that model.

  • by ITRambo ( 1467509 ) on Wednesday December 02, 2015 @01:47AM (#51039029)
    The IRS admitting to using this is sadly comforting, in that a government agency does not feel compelled to lie about it's use of Stingray. I am getting too used to being spied on everyday, everywhere, by everyone, about everything.
    • Why be so negative about it?

      This could easily be interpreted as the government simply thinking their missing something in the general populace and they realize people only want to give up so much, they're stuck with meta-data, but they are seriously investing in trying to find out what they're missing.

      The only problem being, they've found out that by harvesting literally everything, they have way more than they can effectively use, so they trim it to strictly by the books, on the record use.

      Everyone s

    • The IRS admitting to using this is sadly comforting

      Or maybe it's just to scare the cheaters..

    • No comfort here (Score:3, Insightful)

      by SuperKendall ( 25149 )

      The IRS knows they are untouchable now. They can willfully destroy any private group at will, as they did with conservative groups, without punishment - who cares if at the same time they are listening on cell phone conversations of taxpayers? They say it's only the enforcement arm, but since any taxpayer is potentially lying about taxes, the enforcement arm would cover everyone in the U.S....

      • The IRS knows they are untouchable now. They can willfully destroy any private group at will, as they did with conservative groups, without punishment - who cares if at the same time they are listening on cell phone conversations of taxpayers? They say it's only the enforcement arm, but since any taxpayer is potentially lying about taxes, the enforcement arm would cover everyone in the U.S....

        Their funding got cut, which actually hurts the whole country.

  • At this time, the focus should be on moving to encrypted voice communications. It is easy enough to do it with android and ios. At that point, it will not matter what tricks are pulled.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Except with a stingray they could push OTA updates to your phone to root it and listen in on your mic anyway.

    • by PPH ( 736903 )

      At this time, the focus should be on moving to encrypted voice communications.

      Already there (more or less). The wireless link of most cellular calls can be encrypted if the phone and base station negotiate such a connection. The problem is: cellular systems were designed with things like roaming on foreign systems and the ability to fall back to a best effort means of establishing a link. So if the 'base station' says it doesn't support some (or all) types of encryption, the call falls back to unencrypted. This is one of the tricks the Stingrays use.

      Calls can be made over a TCP/IP c

  • Newspeak (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Errol backfiring ( 1280012 ) on Wednesday December 02, 2015 @05:08AM (#51039511) Journal

    "in accordance with all appropriate federal and state judicial procedures."

    In other words, "as they damn well please".

    • by schwit1 ( 797399 )
      Exactly. Government officials use code words ie procedures, policies, directives, NDAs as justifications to subvert the KNOWINGLYConstitution.
  • Was this really necessary? Forensic accounting not good enough?
  • Of all the Criminal Enforcement branches of the law, the IRS's branch is most likely the ones who use this technology the way we expect them to, the way it was designed to be used. While DHS is likely to keep ALL the data they collect, I can easily imagine that the IRS will either not record, or swiftly dump, any data that isn't specifically attached to the investigation at hand.

    Revenue Officers have a good deal more power to them than a typical investigator, as they can make determinations that ..really d

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