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FCC Complaint: Baltimore Police Breaking Law With Use of Stingray Phone Trackers ( 108

An anonymous reader writes from a report via Baltimore Sun: Civil rights groups have complained to the FCC over the Baltimore Police Department's use of stingray phone tracking devices. They claim that "the way police use it interferes with emergency calls and is racially discriminatory." Baltimore Sun reports: "The complaint argues that the police department doesn't have a proper license to use the devices and is in violation of federal law. It calls on regulators at the Federal Communications Commission to step in and formally remind law enforcement agencies of the rules. 'The public is relying on the Commission to carry out its statutory obligation to do so, to fulfill its public commitment to do so, and to put an end to widespread network interference caused by rampant unlicensed transmissions made by BPD and other departments around the country,' the groups say in the complaint. Police in Baltimore acknowledged in court last year that they had used the devices thousands of times to investigate crimes ranging from violent attacks to the theft of cellphones. Investigators had been concealing the technology from judges and defense lawyers and after the revelations Maryland's second highest court ruled that police should get a warrant before using a Stingray. The groups argue that surveillance using the devices also undermines people's free speech rights and describe the use of Stingrays as an electronic form of the intrusive police practices described in the scathing Justice Department report on the police department's pattern of civil rights violations."
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FCC Complaint: Baltimore Police Breaking Law With Use of Stingray Phone Trackers

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    This device can determine race when scanning phone calls?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 16, 2016 @07:07PM (#52716677)

      The don't have to... they're used disproportionately in black neighborhoods. It's right in TFA had you bothered to read it.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        they're used disproportionately in black neighborhoods.

        And? There are millions of other reasons for that that don't indicate racial discrimination.

        It's right in TFA had you bothered to read it.

        RTFA? Where do you think you are, someplace other than slashdot?

      • by tsotha ( 720379 )

        ... which also happen to be the neighborhoods with the highest crime rates. Do you think having cops allocate more resources to neighborhoods with higher crime rates is a bad idea? Sounds like Law Enforcement 101 to me.

      • You do realise that Baltimore is mostly black neighborhoods don't you? Also, the highest crime areas (you know, the areas we tell our kids not to wander to?) are black.

        I would expect the police to be using tools to catch criminals in the high crime areas, wouldn't you?

        Perhaps if you lived in Maryland you would understand.

        • "Also, the highest crime areas (you know, the areas we tell our kids not to wander to?) are black."

          No, the highest crime areas (anywhere in the world) are poor. Skin colour doesn't enter into that part.

          If you start looking into the reasons why disproportionate ratios of the black population are poor then it's easy to see the systemic discrimination across the board which shows the Jim Crow laws might be gone, but Jim Crow attitudes still lurk just under the surface.

    • by sjames ( 1099 ) on Tuesday August 16, 2016 @07:10PM (#52716689) Homepage Journal

      No, but police can deploy it where it will mostly interfere with minorities.

    • There I was racially discriminating, in the hood down town
      all inside it's so incriminating picking phones to own
      feel as though nobody can avoid my prying eye
      so I might as well begin to put some action in my life
      Breaking the law, breaking the law
      Breaking the law, breaking the law
      Breaking the law, breaking the law
      Breaking the law, breaking the law

    • This device can determine race when scanning phone calls?

      Watch out, they're coming for the Derps next! You thought you were safe?!

  • Criminal status is not a race, EMF doesn't send or receive better based on the color of your skin.

    Unless you're holding it wrong.

    • by sjames ( 1099 )

      Unless you use it primarily in minority neighborhoods.

      • If 20% of the population is committing 50% of the crime, is enhanced enforcement in minority communities really racism or is it effective asset allocation? If your part of the majority of the minority community members being preyed upon by a minority of gangbanger scum, your really caught between a rock and a hard place.

    • by mcl630 ( 1839996 ) on Tuesday August 16, 2016 @07:18PM (#52716721)

      Stringray is used mostly in minority neighborhoods (at least according to the complaint) and doesn't just affect the criminal targeted. Everybody in the neighborhood loses data service and has calls blocked or dropped, including 911 calls.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Baltimore PD is Baltimore's largest organized crime ring.

  • by IonOtter ( 629215 ) on Tuesday August 16, 2016 @07:46PM (#52716813) Homepage

    It's becoming more and more clear, that Baltimore is going to require a truly massive purge of it's law enforcement ranks. Not just slaps on the wrist, or re-training, but a flat-out "You're fired, and law enforcement credentials revoked []" kind of thing.

    There won't be any mass riots or anything like that. Those happen because the firings haven't happened when they should.

    If anything, it'll become the most peaceful, most pleasant city to live in, until a fresh crop of high-IQ, college-graduates [] can be convinced to take the job.

    • Don't forget to strip them of their pensions and throw them in prison for the crimes committed, as well as allowing them to be held individually liable in any civil suit.

    • It's very disturbing you went right for a word loaded with historical baggage like "purge". [] That sort of thing has a very dark history and suggesting the same tactics be used on people you don't like is worrisome indeed.

      I thought IQ tests didn't work and only produced invalid results? Besides, if intelligent people are so intelligent, why don't they just sandbag the test so the results come back at average?

      Intelligent people do poorly at tasks requiring a lot of repetition and lack of novel stimulus.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Charge anyone who operated one of the devices with felony wiretapping. "Just following orders" has never been a valid excuse for breaking the law.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I think that the fine for unlicensed transmission is $10,000/day.

  • by sexconker ( 1179573 ) on Tuesday August 16, 2016 @07:51PM (#52716829)

    Why is my phone connecting to random towers all the damned time?

    My phone should come with a list of certificates it trusts and should only connect to trusted towers.
    I should be able to edit this list as the owner of the phone.
    I should be able to accept updates to this list from my carrier (or any carrier of my choice), either as automatically and insecurely as I want (leaving "Auto" checked on the phone, or as carefully as I want (walk into the carrier's HQ and ask for a paper list of cert fingerprints for their towers and the towers of their partners).

    I should be alerted whenever a new tower claiming to be a tower of my chosen carrier(s) is detected with an unmatched cert before my phone connects to it. I could then decide to blacklist it, check for an update that includes it so I can confidently add it, or just add it blindly and roll the dice.

    • That's a damn fine idea. I recall the blackphone does something akin to this as far as alerting the user when the phone detects that a tower has something....amiss in it configuration. Please implement and open source with haste, lest somebody takes this great idea to field and patents the idea from under you.

      • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
        The days of a big spike in signal bars, a drop to an older standard was often talked about online and apps built to map such network strangeness.
        This machine catches stingrays: Pwnie Express demos cellular threat detector (4/21/2015) []
        The new devices offered to police will try and harmonise to any signal strength in the local area and stay with any modern telco networks detected. The hand over would now be more seamless, to try and mimic just another new tower or smaller
      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        There is SnoopSnitch for Android which uses a database and detection of unusual configurations. I've used it around London, it's quite an eye-opener.

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      Its from the early days of towers and moving a cell phone around, the handoff between towers has to be very, very cheap, easy to bill, be totally scalable and telco trusted.
      All a telco device expected was lots of cell towers to select from. The users voice was consumer encrypted to a weak early standard so that part was secure from consumer recording in the wild.
      That is where the early mil systems got in. The tower hand over was a telco weakness and allowed the take over of a users phone.
      Years late
    • by qeveren ( 318805 ) on Wednesday August 17, 2016 @02:33AM (#52717991)

      What's stopping the police from getting certs?

  • Basically what they're saying is that investing crimes in predominately black neighborhoods is racist... WTF???

  • What is amazing to me is that they *can* use the stingray device on an entire city, but they don't seem to be able to use them around JAILS. You know jails where the inmates aren't supposed to have cell phones but do... and the DoC files for an exception from the FCC and is told they can't install cell phone jammers. Meanwhile the inmates arrange for hits against guards they don't like. []

Air is water with holes in it.