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How Militarized Cops Are Zapping Rights With Stingray (alternet.org) 105

"Police nationwide are secretly exploiting intrusive technologies with the feds' complicity," argues a new article on Alternet -- calling out Stingray, which mimics a cellphone tower to identify every cellphone nearby. "It gathers information not only about a specific suspect, but any bystanders in the area as well... Some Stingrays are capable of collecting not only cell phone ID numbers but also numbers those phones have dialed and even phone conversations." The ACLU says requests for more information have been meeting heavy resistance from police departments since 2011, with many departments citing nondisclosure agreements with Stingray's manufacturer and with the FBI, and "often, the police get a judge's sign-off for surveillance without even bothering to mention that they will be using a Stingray...claiming that they simply can't violate those FBI nondisclosure agreements.

"More often than not, police use Stingrays without bothering to get a warrant, instead seeking a court order on a more permissive legal standard. This is part of the charm of a new technology for the authorities: nothing is settled on how to use it." Stingray is more than a 1960s TV series with puppets. Several state judges estimate there have been hundreds of instances where police have used the Stingray tool without a warrant or telling a judge.

Slashdot reader Presto Vivace writes:
This is why it matters who wins the mayor and city council races. Localities do not have to accept this technology.
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How Militarized Cops Are Zapping Rights With Stingray

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  • Correct phrasing. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 21, 2016 @10:37PM (#52158249)

    nothing is settled on how to use it

    This isn't a problem with new technology. This is a problem with powertripping fuckheads.

    The Fourth Amendment, in very simple and explicit language, settled the use of Stingray long before it was even imagined.

  • by ebonum ( 830686 ) on Saturday May 21, 2016 @10:41PM (#52158259)

    Hard to see what the problem. The police gather information illegally with a stingray. Then they know who/what/where to look for. Then they create a secondary story to explain how they made the bust. In the drive through a McDonald's noticed suspect leave motel and get in his car. Suspect stumbled and appeared to be inebriated. When suspect was pulled over, suspect seemed nervous which justified the search which lead to the happy fortuitous discovery of drugs...
    No cops where jailed during the crime, so all good.

  • by jenningsthecat ( 1525947 ) on Saturday May 21, 2016 @10:54PM (#52158281)

    FTS: "often, the police get a judge's sign-off for surveillance without even bothering to mention that they will be using a Stingray...claiming that they simply can't violate those FBI nondisclosure agreements"

    So judges should just get into the habit of asking specific questions about Stingray, and anything similarly illegal, EVERY TIME law enforcement asks for a warrant. Force the cops to make a choice between lying to a judge and violating an NDA with the FBI. It would be entertaining to be a fly on the wall and watch the FBI get thrown under the bus a few (dozen) times in front of a variety of judges.

    • or disclosing the extent of what they're going to do they've dropped the request. If they feel threatened they just go to ground.
    • by khchung ( 462899 )

      So judges should just get into the habit of asking specific questions about Stingray, and anything similarly illegal, EVERY TIME law enforcement asks for a warrant. Force the cops to make a choice between lying to a judge and violating an NDA with the FBI.

      Remind me again, why would any judge want to make cops' life difficult?

      If a judge signed a warrant which subsequently led to the illegal use of Stingray, would there be any penalty for the judge? The answer is most likely no, and therein lies the root of the problem.

      • Remind me again, why would any judge want to make cops' life difficult?

        If they didn't, then why wouldn't the warrants be trivial to get? Why would the improperly collected evidence be inadmissable? Why would the appeals court not allow it the admissability to stand?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      What do you call people working for government who very obviously display criminal behavior in their everyday jobs, like the FBI? Not criminals, because they won't get arrested. What then? Is there a better word that still retains the contempt society should hold for these people?

    • by Agripa ( 139780 )

      So judges should just get into the habit of asking specific questions about Stingray, and anything similarly illegal, EVERY TIME law enforcement asks for a warrant. Force the cops to make a choice between lying to a judge and violating an NDA with the FBI. It would be entertaining to be a fly on the wall and watch the FBI get thrown under the bus a few (dozen) times in front of a variety of judges.

      Why would the judges do that? It is in their interest not to know.

  • Cell radiation or is it from the safety I feel?
  • The Police State (Score:5, Insightful)

    by surfdaddy ( 930829 ) on Saturday May 21, 2016 @11:28PM (#52158353)

    The Police State is progressing successfully, all while we continue to ensure that the masses believe they are free and have a full bill of rights that is followed legally.

  • This is why it matters who wins the mayor and city council races. Localities do not have to accept this technology.

    No. The reality is that there is a chain of command and that the most spineless lightweights occupy lower offices. They will do whatever they are pressured to do from the next level up, and so on.

    Stop living under the delusion that there is democracy in the world.
    The only way you could argue that there is democracy is if 95+% of humans don't count as people. Which is pretty much the argument th

    • No. The reality is that there is a chain of command and that the most spineless lightweights occupy lower offices. They will do whatever they are pressured to do from the next level up, and so on.

      No. The reality is that your public officials are doing exactly what people demand from them: being tough on crime. Sure, they end up trampling all over everyone's rights, killing or jailing innocent people, and going way too far with the guilty, but that's what you keep voting for.

      Stop living under the delusion t

      • I'm afraid your ideas of the proportions of the population in terms of various designations of fervor about crime are askew.

        Voting does not matter. The system has been broken. It's been figured out. The only candidates supplied are those that will follow the chain of command, or the only people voting are those that will follow the chain of command.

        The only people who vote in local elections are, honestly, complete freaks. The do not vote out of honest concern, they vote to fit in. They vote to brag about w

  • by Required Snark ( 1702878 ) on Sunday May 22, 2016 @12:24AM (#52158475)
    If the Feds gave local police military helicopters with Hellfire missiles they would routinely be used on jaywalkers and drivers who didn't use turn signals. If it was nukes they would be used on speeders. One of the perks of being a cop is the right to use unjustifiable force any time you can get away with it.
    • If the Feds gave local police military helicopters with Hellfire missiles they would routinely be used on jaywalkers and drivers who didn't use turn signals

      They should be used on drivers that don't use their turn signals.

  • ...with many departments citing nondisclosure agreements with Stingray's manufacturer and with the FBI, and "often, the police get a judge's sign-off for surveillance without even bothering to mention that they will be using a Stingray...claiming that they simply can't violate those FBI nondisclosure agreements.

    So their position, then, is that they've contracted away our constitutional rights? Is that the long and the short of it?

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Yea, it is pretty much the same as the contract between the five eyes.

      The CIA is not supposed to spy on US-nationals in the U.S.A, so they let MI5 spy inside the U.S.A. and share the information with the CIA. Not exactly in the spirit of the law, is it.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    mdsolar zapping my rights to cheap efficient electricity with his anti-nuclear agenda. For more information, go back 4 articles.

  • Mobile phones aren't secure anyway. You are being tracked by one or more entities when you carry one. All your data is monitored as well as your calls and location by the various corporations. Yet everyone seems to have one. Just accept that any networked communication system is not secure by definition. All nodes need to be able to talk to other nodes in the system. That is the design.
  • Maybe all defence lawyers should ask the opening question whether any surveillance device was used without a court order, during the investigation? Get the illegal data tossed out frequently enough, that maybe the cops will consider use of a court order?

  • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Sunday May 22, 2016 @09:02AM (#52159509) Homepage

    never Ever trust the police. They are no different than the Crips or Bloods except they are better financed.

  • Cases dropped (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Archfeld ( 6757 ) <treboreel@live.com> on Sunday May 22, 2016 @11:06AM (#52159939) Journal

    The 6th amendment right to confront your accuser has caused many cases brought about by so called stingray devices to be dropped for fear of violating the NDA's signed by the department utilizing the devices, FBI included. I'm not saying they aren't out there or that many departments aren't over-stepping their bounds but any decent lawyer will challenge the source of transcripts and many cases have magically faded away for the lack of evidence unless they are major cases that can invoke secret warrants or such as national security issues.

    http://arstechnica.com/tech-po... [arstechnica.com]

    http://forums.theregister.co.u... [theregister.co.uk]

    https://www.techdirt.com/artic... [techdirt.com]

  • by Pepebuho ( 167300 ) on Sunday May 22, 2016 @01:36PM (#52160511)

    I believe this whole outcry is quite stupid. It has quite a "simple" technical solution.
    1. Crowdsource the position and coordinates of "legal" cell tower antennas. It's not hard, they are visible . If it is possible to have "OpenStreetMap" I do not see why it cannot have a layer called "OpenCellSites". Just like Waze
    2. Write an App, or include it in the firmware that keeps the cellphone from answering siren calls from any antenna not in the list.
    Stingray is not a problem if you simply do not answer its call.

    I know #2 maybe difficult if it is in the firmware inside radio module. If that is the case then I foresee an industry of open source radio modules with a "veto" signal that tells the cellphone when it is hearing a "better" antenna and asks for permission to change. It it does not receive permission, it is forbidden to switch.

    Just My Idea.

    • by fyngyrz ( 762201 )

      This has already been done. [slashdot.org]

      "Filter error: You can type more than that for your comment"

      Slashcode error: makes people type in worthless padding. Good job. Not.

    • by Agripa ( 139780 )

      I know #2 maybe difficult if it is in the firmware inside radio module. If that is the case then I foresee an industry of open source radio modules with a "veto" signal that tells the cellphone when it is hearing a "better" antenna and asks for permission to change. It it does not receive permission, it is forbidden to switch.

      Which will not be approved by the FCC.

  • I saw an episode of Mystery Diner where the guy in charge mentioned that he used a Stingray to intercept SMS messages between two staff who were suspected of stealing from their employer.

    They showed the messages as captured - so either this was faked or private citizens can purchase and use Stingray's for spying on people.

    And you are worried about Law Enforcement using them ?

  • are a criminal class.

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