The U.S. Authorities are Still Snooping on the Public
The Anaheim Police Department has just made life creepier for everybody. The authorities have been using stingrays, a kind of mobile surveillance system, to keep track of people’s location. Dirtboxes, which are plain-mounted sting-rays, were employed by the Department in 2009, followed by land-mounted stingrays in 2011.
These stingrays are attached to aircrafts that fly over Southern California city. The region is home to Disneyland, one of the most frequented places by tourists in the world.
“This cell phone spying program—which potentially affects the privacy of everyone from Orange County’s 3 million residents to the 16 million people who visit Disneyland every year—shows the dangers of allowing law enforcement to secretly acquire surveillance technology,” says Matt Cagle, technology and civil liberties policy attorney for ACLU-NC.
The surveillance tech in question here works by impersonating cellphone towers tricking mobile phones into connecting to them. This connection ensures that whoever is controlling the impostor-tower has full information of the phone’s location and unique ID. Stingrays send out signals stronger than other towers in the vicinity, ensuring the phone’s connection with them. Also, they are not selective in getting devices to connect with them -all devices in the location would inadvertently connect with them.
Additionally, the surveillance also causes disruption in services for innumerable users in the Orange County when they are connected to one of the stingray devices. However, the authorities have ensured that the surveillance system is capable of identifying calls made to 911 and letting them through minus any disruption. This also implies that emergency calls made to non-911 numbers would have trouble getting through.
In the past, there have been reports about other American cities using these Dirtboxes as well. Chicago and Los Angeles are two such names that pop up. Anaheim by far, however, is the smallest city to have been using this kind of surveillance tech.
Cagle comments on this and says, “If a city of this size possesses a Dirtbox it really begs the question what other cities smaller than Los Angeles and Chicago were able to buy these devices in the six years since it has had one.”
Though the extent of control Anaheim’s stingrays and Dirtboxes are unclear at this point, it doesn’t leave us with a very comfortable scenario. These are one of the few kinds of surveillance we are aware of. Nobody truly knows what goes on under the facade of the supposed transparency of the administration. Does this piece of news leave you uneasy about your privacy? Let us know in the comments below.