The news that the U.S. Department of Justice is limiting the federal government’s use of “Stingrays“, devices that mimic cell phone towers and can pinpoint a phone’s location or know which number someone is calling, was welcomed by people concerned with privacy on their mobile phones. Except in special, “rare” cases, police officers are now unable to turn on their Stingrays without a warrant.
If you think the government snooping on your internet searches is invasive, imagine them knowing where you were, where you are, who you called, and who called you! It reminds me of the song by The Police that goes, “Every breath you take, every move you make … I’ll be watching you.”
Mobile phone surveillance has been around for quite some, but if you aren’t aware of what’s been going on, here’s a crash course on how the government follows you through your cell phone.
Aside from using Stingrays, law enforcement officers also use a mobile device known as a “Wolfhound” or “Jugulars.” Wolfhounds are smaller than Stingrays, but instead of mimicking a cell-site tower, it tries to listen to the signals mobile phones send.
Another way the government can track your phone activities is by approaching your phone company and asking for cell-site location information (CSLI). A government can ask for three types of CLSI. The first is historical CLSI, in which they can ask for a specific phone’s CLSI for the previous day, week, or month. The second type of CLSI is prospective or real-time CLSI, in which law enforcement agents can ask for the current location of the phone or for its upcoming pings. The third type of CLSI is known as the “tower dump,” in which law enforcement agents ask for all the pings a cell-site received for a certain period of time.
Though these methods aren’t the only ways the government can track you through your mobile phone, these are the most common ones used.
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