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Local Police Want To Jam Wireless Signals

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the hope-you-like-jammin'-too dept.

Cellphones 317

The Washington Post is reporting on the growing pressure from state and local law enforcement agencies for permission to jam wireless signals the way the Secret Service and the FBI can. Officials especially want to be able to drop a no-call blanket over local prisons around the country from time to time. "...jamming remains strictly illegal for state and local agencies. Federal officials barely acknowledge that they use it inside the United States, and the few federal agencies that can jam signals usually must seek a legal waiver first. The quest to expand the technology has invigorated a debate about how widely jamming should be allowed and whether its value as a common crime-fighting strategy outweighs its downsides, including restricting the constant access to the airwaves that Americans have come to expect. ... Critics warn of another potential problem, 'friendly fire,' when one agency inadvertently jams another's access to the airwaves, posing a safety hazard in an emergency. [CTIA spokesman Joe] Farren said there are 'smarter, better and safer alternatives,' such as stopping inmates from getting smuggled cellphones in the first place or pinpointing signals from unauthorized callers."

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317 comments

This will come up (5, Interesting)

SolidAltar (1268608) | more than 5 years ago | (#26688047)

Question: How the hell do you smuggle a cell phone into prison?
Answer: You don't. You bribe/threaten a guard.

Re:This will come up (4, Insightful)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 5 years ago | (#26688137)

Right. Same with sneaking drugs into prisons as well.

Even small amounts of dope or a cell phone is worth hundreds of dollars in the 'joint(typically a fourfold increase). Good dope dealers can make thousands a week from the inside.

So why does so much taxpayer money go towards a poverty industrial complex which isn't even doing its job? Typical bright idea from lawmakers: "Hey, lets solve the problem by just hiding it from everybody else!"

Re:This will come up (3, Insightful)

timeOday (582209) | more than 5 years ago | (#26688315)

So, wait a minute, what's your solution again - make sure no prison guards ever break the rules? That'll work. I suppose your approach to setting login passwords is "just leave 'em blank. Dishonesty is a social problem, not a technical one, and people should be honest enough not to use each others' accounts." Sure they should, but - more to the point - it ain't gonna happen.

By the way what does "poverty industrial complex" mean?

Re:This will come up (4, Interesting)

RabidMoose (746680) | more than 5 years ago | (#26688559)

Unfortunately, you're right. There's likely no 100% effective way to prevent the smuggling of items into prisons.
Say you invent a magical contriband detector that always sees any item you want on a person. All it takes is to bribe the person operating the machine, and it becomes useless. Make a machine that's totally automated and decides for itself, and you're getting dangerously close to Skynet.

Re:This will come up (5, Insightful)

thesupraman (179040) | more than 5 years ago | (#26688683)

It is simple to set up a cell inside a prison that cellphones will connect to, which will then ID all calls, the details of the phone, and with a little RDF even its approximate location.

So it would be quite simple to clear dis-allowed cellphones from inside a prison, of course they dont - this should give you some idea of the scale of the problems in the prison system.

Why not make it the law that all non-registered cellphones using the prinsons cell site coverage are automatically logged (phone details AND voice recorded..) - surely that would make the value of the phones almost nothing.

Of course again, there goes a big source of lets call it 'power' from the bad prison associates, so it will not happen.

Its not just the men locking doors and doing searches who can be corrupt, in fact I would suggest its not even mainly them..

this is an attempt to stop FREE WIRELESS (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26688613)

plain and simple as hte police now work for hollywood so what do you epxect

Re:This will come up (3, Insightful)

nmb3000 (741169) | more than 5 years ago | (#26688351)

So why does so much taxpayer money go towards a poverty industrial complex which isn't even doing its job?

I think that's being just a little disingenuous. You could just as easily say "Crimes go unsolved and criminal unpunished. Why does so much taxpayer money go towards police departments which aren't doing their jobs?" or similarly, "People break laws all the time with no consequences. Why does so much taxpayer money go towards enforcing and creating laws which aren't doing their jobs?".

Just because something doesn't work all the time for all the people doesn't mean it isn't worth the investment or that it should be dismissed outright. The fact is that while the law enforcement/prison system may not be perfect, it is preventing some people from committing additional unlawful acts. When you're talking about crimes such as theft, rape, murder, etc., that is a significant and worthy cause.

Re:This will come up (1)

mjensen (118105) | more than 5 years ago | (#26688631)

I generally agree, but.....

Doesn't this promote the idea that there are unlawful acts that you can get away with, if you are skillful or lucky? I'm talking about speeding and general traffic laws, so its a little different case.

But if you break the law enough times, it can bring someone to think that they can break more laws and not get caught.

Re:This will come up (5, Insightful)

Schemat1c (464768) | more than 5 years ago | (#26688749)

Just because something doesn't work all the time for all the people doesn't mean it isn't worth the investment or that it should be dismissed outright. The fact is that while the law enforcement/prison system may not be perfect, it is preventing some people from committing additional unlawful acts. When you're talking about crimes such as theft, rape, murder, etc., that is a significant and worthy cause.

The prison system is a complete failure. The guards make insane amounts of money as do the companies that get contracted to perform services such as food and laundry. This leads to corruption on many levels all the way up to the lawmakers who pass ridiculous laws in order to keep the prisons full. The prison guards have a very powerful lobby in CA that was instrumental in stopping Proposition 5 which would have reduced prison populations dramatically and saved billions in tax dollars.

There is nothing worthy about this system. The majority of prisoners are non-violent offenders, mostly drug offenses that should be treated as a medical issue rather than a criminal one. A simple Google search will give you all the information you need to know about Prison Inc.

Re:This will come up (3, Interesting)

rtb61 (674572) | more than 5 years ago | (#26688875)

What is the more correct conclusion, is when the system is failing but has potential, you review and alter the system so as to reduce the failure potential. Privatised for profit prisons will always be a failure at rehabilitation, as rehabilitation costs money and in reality eliminates the future profit potential of current inmates (no repeat offenders).

Corporations are simple amoral engines of greed, their priority is to charge as much as possible while spending the least amount possible, hence locking up convicted inmates in the cheapest way possible that they are legally able to get away with. So low cost guards basically low IQ thugs in uniform who often derive perverted sexual fulfilment from abusing people, rather then properly trained correctional (note the term) services officers, which of course would 'cost' a corporation two to three times as much, where as of course repeat offenders only cost the public ten to one hundred times that in damages, pain and suffering, so corporate profits first the publics interest last and keep those returning profits from repeat offenders coming in.

The reality is that a prison should in fact be the most law abiding place in society, otherwise the supervision and rehabilitation is demonstrated to be a total failure. Rather than blocking transmissions that should be tracking them to find the contraband then pursuing the trail of evidence to apprehend all those involved and of course turn the smuggling prison guard into an inmate and demonstrate the effectiveness of law enforcing institution and it's staff. Jamming the signals, the cheap solution which is basically giving up on enforcing law within in prison.

Re:This will come up (5, Insightful)

amRadioHed (463061) | more than 5 years ago | (#26688793)

The accessibility of drugs and other contraband in jail kind of shines a spotlight on the stupidity of the war on drugs. I mean if the government can't even come close to keeping drugs out of a place where people have no freedom at all, why do they think they can do it in a supposedly free country?

Re:This will come up (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26688343)

While there is more corruption in prison than anyone would like to admit, all the compact technology in a cell phone is tremendous, and it keeps getting smaller and easier to smuggle.

Also, most prisons are criminally understaffed. It is far easier to bribe a guard when there are less eyes on the prisoners and less colleagues who are keeping an eye on other staff as well (although I note the administrative ranks seem to be swelling).

Jammers make the most amount of sense on a per cost basis, but the underlying problems in prisons remains.*

*Works in a prison.

Re:This will come up (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26688411)

You obviously have never had your asshole fisted, after going to prison I bet you could smuggle in Shaq.

Re:This will come up (1)

thameslink (1446609) | more than 5 years ago | (#26688449)

I personally know someone who had his probation revoked for smuggling a mobile phone into a UK prison in his arse

Re:This will come up (5, Informative)

whois_drek (829212) | more than 5 years ago | (#26688485)

Question: How the hell do you smuggle a cell phone into prison? Answer: You don't. You bribe/threaten a guard. Sure, you can smuggle a cell phone into prison. At our local county jail, the inmates tend a three-acre garden during the summer. There's no fence around it, no bars, no watch towers. Anybody could drop a cell phone or a stash of drugs into a carved-out watermelon, and it's trotted into the prison kitchen the next day. Three inmates work at the animal shelter next door as well. While the inmates hose out the kennels, people off the street walk up and down looking at animals. How can the shelter workers tell that one of the visitors isn't the inmate's cousin, dropping off a bag of drugs? It's laughably easy to smuggle things into prison, especially minimum-security ones with work-release programs.

Re:This will come up.... The same way Butch did, (1)

davidsyes (765062) | more than 5 years ago | (#26688505)

In Pulp Fiction... he hid that cell phone up his ass for TWO YEARS from the Vietcong.

Well, now the prisoners do have a little help from from the guard of the ring leaders, hehehe.

Butt, perhaps the public can fight back with:

http://entertainment.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=09/01/25/2322238 [slashdot.org]

Destroying Undesired Surveillance To 0x0, Freq by Freq...

Re:This will come up.... The same way Butch did, (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#26688725)

In Pulp Fiction... he hid that cell phone up his ass for TWO YEARS from the Vietcong.

His watch.

dumb. (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 5 years ago | (#26688063)

Wouldn't it make a *lot* more sense to just make a deal with the cell phone companies to fail to route non-emergency calls?

Re:dumb. (5, Interesting)

SolidAltar (1268608) | more than 5 years ago | (#26688119)

Distilling your idea: Setup cell phone towers in prisons. The phones will connect to these towers since they are the strongest. Make these towers "dead" cells".

I guess as long as you set them up inside the prison blocks of solid concrete walls and steel it could work. *shrug*

Listen in,rather than shutting up the neighborhood (4, Insightful)

D4C5CE (578304) | more than 5 years ago | (#26688175)

Distilling your idea: Setup cell phone towers in prisons. The phones will connect to these towers since they are the strongest. Make these towers "dead" cells".

Better yet, eavesdrop on these!
Catch criminals on either end of the line talking crime most of the time...

Jamming, OTOH, in any location just keeps victims or witnesses of crime from reporting it or calling for help.

Re:Listen in,rather than shutting up the neighborh (1)

SolidAltar (1268608) | more than 5 years ago | (#26688193)

>>Distilling your idea: Setup cell phone towers in prisons. The phones will connect to these towers since they are the strongest. Make these towers "dead" cells".

>Better yet, eavesdrop on these!

You probably couldn't without a court order. Actually, that's a pretty interesting legal question. Any lawyers?

Re:Listen in,rather than shutting up the neighborh (4, Interesting)

Gyga (873992) | more than 5 years ago | (#26688235)

I was under the impression that prisons currently have the right to listen to phone calls/visits that don't involve lawyers, most courts would extend it to illegal phone calls.

Re:Listen in,rather than shutting up the neighborh (1)

SolidAltar (1268608) | more than 5 years ago | (#26688247)

Yes, but you would have to make 100% sure it was impossible for you to pick up other peoples calls. Then again, who's watching? Who would know?

Re:dumb. (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#26688729)

Distilling your idea: Setup cell phone towers in prisons. The phones will connect to these towers since they are the strongest. Make these towers "dead" cells".

Maybe thats how jammers work.

and dumber (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 5 years ago | (#26688157)

Wouldn't it make a *lot* more sense to just make a deal with the cell phone companies to fail to route non-emergency calls?

And block all phone use by guards, prison management, and visitors?

Real clever. Remember, the article is talking about spot blocks that would be done on a temporary basis, not a permanent ban on communications.

Re:and dumber (2, Interesting)

Ironsides (739422) | more than 5 years ago | (#26688357)

And block all phone use by guards, prison management, and visitors?

All CELLphone use. The guards, management and visitors would still have access to the land lines.

Same point (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 5 years ago | (#26688679)

All CELLphone use. The guards, management and visitors would still have access to the land lines.

What good does that do? It wastes state money having to have more land lines to accommodate more people. It blocks things that are commonplace now like texting, that once people grow used to using is a real drawback to be without because people will expect it to work for you. It also doesn't help people that are nearby, but not in, the prison - like people driving by.

Again, it's simply a bad idea to lock down cell phone use around prisons on a permanent basis, though I am all for allowing them a way to jam signals on occasion. The frequencies you need to jam are limited and it's technically cheaper for a temporary shutdown than would be the erection and maintenance of whole cell phone towers for the prison.

Re:and dumber (1)

PlusFiveTroll (754249) | more than 5 years ago | (#26688691)

Right, because in your magical world jails have multiple fall over systems for comms that can't be knocked out by fire or other inmates. Unfortunately in the real world jails just aren't built that way. Hell, our local low risk jail doesn't have a sprinkler system and was damn lucky not to burn down.

http://tylerpaper.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20090127/NEWS08/901270322 [tylerpaper.com]

The problem with ideas like this jamming is they not only block criminals, who by definition are going to find a way to break the law as it is. It's going to block legitimate legal use of phones in the general area of the prison. Like the parking lot, where locally, citizens have used there cell phones to report escaping inmates. Our local high risk jail is in the middle of the downtown area... how do you not cause accidental jamming there?

Want a better idea? How about an accurate cell phone location finder... Whenever a cell is used in the jail its general location can be tracked down and the cell searched. This way the cells are tracked to the people that have them and investigated, and cells can still be used in emergencies.

Re:dumb. (1)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 5 years ago | (#26688231)

Assuming that all Cell phone companies would agree to limiting calls like that, how do you suggest they distinguish between calls made at the prisons or whatever place verses calls made 200 feet from it or from people who otherwise have legitimate reasons to make a call?

I can see where spot jamming might be wanted. Something like a bomb scare where you wouldn't want the possibility of remote triggering to happen. Or maybe in a prison riot situation where contact to the outside could escalate the situation and empower the inmates. You also have problems with inmates conducting business inside the jails and putting people on the outside who may have witnessed against them or something at risk. I'm not sure if the later was is something that couldn't be dealt with in other ways though. Something like a ban on cell phones inside the prison in it's entirety and signal location detection devices that can track cell phones in non-authorized areas and then good old fashioned detective work.

Anyways, besides there being times where blocking the signals altogether might be with more advantages, I'm not sure how a cell company can distinguish who is inside the prison any better then this tech can distinguish who it effects outside the area. It will most likely be overly weak and functionally ineffective or contain a lot of false positives.

....How about no? (5, Insightful)

SolidAltar (1268608) | more than 5 years ago | (#26688093)

How can a local entity possibly have the technical expertise and know how to operate any kind of jamming equipment safely? There's a reason they are illegal for the public and even rarely used in the fed government: They are freaking dangerous and jarring to law-abiding citizens.

Am I wrong?

Re:....How about no? (1)

philspear (1142299) | more than 5 years ago | (#26688473)

What danger is there? Doesn't the jammer just mess with the frequencies used by cell phones?

Re:....How about no? (1)

SamsLembas (1278956) | more than 5 years ago | (#26688513)

Ordinary cell phones are the worst thing I can imagine being jammed. No cell phone = no 911 when people expect to have it.

Re:....How about no? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26688599)

You're having a heartache.
You grab your cellphone and dial 911.
Airwaves are jammed.
You die.

Re:....How about no? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26688603)

without the right protective head gear it can cause brain damage and/or mind control

Re:....How about no? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26688623)

Have you ever been to a hospital? They ask you to turn off your cellphones for a reason...

Re:....How about no? (1)

troll8901 (1397145) | more than 5 years ago | (#26688779)

'No need' for hospital mobile ban [bbc.co.uk] (March 2007).

On a related note, the mobile ban on airplanes were issued by FCC [wikipedia.org] (mobile regulator), not FAA (aircraft safety).

Still, I understand that mobile phone interference can be pretty strong, especially around speakers and CRT monitors, and I don't want to know what happens if those disruptions happen near hospital equipment.

Re:....How about no? (2, Informative)

antirelic (1030688) | more than 5 years ago | (#26688619)

Jamming cell phones at certain facilities should be allowed, such as in prisons, but using cell jamming technology on the block is chalked full of potential pit falls.

I've dont some consulting with law enforcement and the application of technology in tactical situations, and the bottom line greatest problem with jamming cell phones is that it is a dead ringer that something is about to happen. In a tactical situation, anything that gives the target a reason to raise suspicion, dramatically enhances their reaction time. Jamming equipment's real danger is that using it too early can ruin the element of surprise. Cell phones can be set to alarm when coverage suddenly dissapears.

Now what law enforcement really needs is the ability to emulate any carriers signal and perform intercept and interference, thus removing any form of potential early tip off (such as everyones cell phone suddenly going from 4 bars to 0 bars).

Re:....How about no? (1)

JAZ (13084) | more than 5 years ago | (#26688703)

Yes. You are wrong.

What makes you think that the federal government is any more trustworthy than a local government?

Neither should have neither the authority nor the means to do anything that a private citizen can't do - they are only acting on our behalf, right?

Re:....How about no? (1)

thesupraman (179040) | more than 5 years ago | (#26688719)

Rarely used?

You really need to catch up on how many localities jam GPS coverage, often for a few city blocks..

Hint: Not all poor GPS reception in cities is because of building geometry/coverage...

Its considered a 'security risk' on the theory that packed bombs could be GPS detonated in the right location (and not allowing for the fact that all they have to do it get some moron to push a button at the right time instead.)

police (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26688099)

Do you really expect the police to understand something like this? These are the guys who got to where they are by brute force - not by understanding things.

Re:police (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26688179)

Frink: Here is an ordinary square.
Wiggum: Whoa, whoa, slow down, egghead!

Re:police (2, Insightful)

philspear (1142299) | more than 5 years ago | (#26688489)

Do you really expect the police to understand something like this? These are the guys who got to where they are by brute force - not by understanding things.

That's why they hire people who do understand these things to do it for them. Prison guards probably also don't understand the video monitoring systems they use, but that doesn't keep them from using them after they've been setup. It obviously doesn't take a genius to press a button to jam cell phone signals.

Suure... (5, Insightful)

darkitecture (627408) | more than 5 years ago | (#26688103)

The dumb public will be just fine with it riiight up until the first lawsuit from some person who's relative died because they couldn't dial 911.

Re:Suure... (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26688183)

> some person who's relative die

Who's = Who is

"Some person [who is] relative die"

Does that make sense? No. It does not make sense.

Re:Suure... (1, Interesting)

sgt_doom (655561) | more than 5 years ago | (#26688301)

Outstanding point, Good Citizen darkitecture.

It reminds me of those white-collar workers within the Twin Towers on 9/11/01, who dailed 911, only to be told by some witless 911 operator or other to remain in their building which had just been struck by an airliner.

Reminded me of that airhead I once knew who had been hired to be a 911 in NYC, even though her husband was a fugitive from the law and had an outstanding warrent on him.

Unbeleivable, but to be believed during these present times of ultimate lawlessness and corruption...I speak of those banksters, Jamie Dimon, Hank "the Skank" Paulson, Cayne, Phil and Wendy Gramm, etc., etc., etc.

Re:Suure... (1)

philspear (1142299) | more than 5 years ago | (#26688495)

...from inside a prison, on a cell phone they're not supposed to have? Hmm...

Re:Suure... (5, Insightful)

supernova_hq (1014429) | more than 5 years ago | (#26688811)

Ok, I'm actually destroying previous mods to post this, but I think your comment warrants it.

Jamming (any type, really), is a very inexact practice. It is almost impossible to effectively jam a single area without affecting the surrounding area. Contrary to popular belief, prisons are not all situated in the middle of a desert (though they probably should be). Many of them are quite close to towns, parks, camp sites,etc. I have personally been on group camping trips (200+ people) within 3 blocks of a prison. If someone had a emergency while driving past the prison on their way to the camp, they would not be able to call 911.

I just want to make sure that you understand that jamming a prison, and only that prison is actually a lot harder than you may think.

Re:Suure... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26688823)

No, from inside their home probably 10 miles from the prison if the history of the average human and their misuses of technology are any indication.

If we allow local authorities to do this then movie theatres will want it next, then restaurant owners, and we all know that doctors never go to restaurants or the movies.

easy solution.. (1)

Adult film producer (866485) | more than 5 years ago | (#26688111)

have one of the inmates smuggle in a jammer with the help of the warden/prison officials in exchange for access to the library or internet (if they have that sort of thing in prisons.) Not like a criminal will mind running a phone jammer while they're in rotting in prison, who cares.

Re:easy solution.. (2, Informative)

SolidAltar (1268608) | more than 5 years ago | (#26688149)

> have one of the inmates smuggle in a jammer with the help of the warden/prison officials in exchange for access to the library or internet

Actually the private prisons have some internet access. They also use the prisoners as call center employees. I think 60 Minutes had a program on it.

Re:easy solution.. (2, Interesting)

SolidAltar (1268608) | more than 5 years ago | (#26688223)

About a dozen states â" Oregon, Arizona, California and Iowa, among others â" have call centers in state and federal prisons, underscoring a push to employ inmates in telemarketing jobs that might otherwise go to low-wage countries such as India and the Philippines. Arizona prisoners make business calls, as do inmates in Oklahoma. A call center for the DMV is run out of an all-female prison in Oregon. Other companies are keeping manufacturing jobs in the USA. More than 150 inmates in a Virginia federal prison build car parts for Delco Remy International. Previously, some of those jobs were overseas. At least 2,000 inmates nationwide work in call centers, and that number is rising as companies seek cheap labor without incurring the wrath of politicians and unions. At the same time, prison populations are ballooning, offering U.S. companies another way to slash costs.

http://www.usatoday.com/money/economy/employment/2004-07-06-call-center_x.htm [usatoday.com]
And they work for $200 dollars. A month. I'm glad that the prisoners get to do something productive...but it feels kind of weird/prison-industrial complexish. =0

Prison no-call blanket (4, Insightful)

OzPeter (195038) | more than 5 years ago | (#26688117)

I think that authorities are looking in the wrong direction with putting a jamming system as there will always be collateral damage of legitimate phones being blocked.

I think it would be better to circle a prison with micro-cells and intercept all cell phone transmissions, and only allow through nominated numbers. This could also have the effect of being able to triangulate the position of illegitimate phones when they are used.

Re:Prison no-call blanket (1)

Gyga (873992) | more than 5 years ago | (#26688163)

You'd only need 1 in order to route all calls, 3 (along the outer fence line) to locate the phones. Not including problems with different carriers. Of course anyone who lives by the prison will be pissed when their phone gets routed.

Re:Prison no-call blanket (1)

Gyga (873992) | more than 5 years ago | (#26688187)

Sorry half my post got lost (mea culpa).

It'd be better to just sit up dumb antennae (3) that detect the phone's signal (I believe their are only a couple frequencies used by cellphones) and locates it so the guards can go confiscate/discipline the innmate.

Re:Prison no-call blanket (1)

RabidMoose (746680) | more than 5 years ago | (#26688527)

Right, except that crooked guards are how the inmate got ahold of the phone in the first place. It comes down to a point where you've got to really trust your guards.

Re:Prison no-call blanket (1)

vadim_t (324782) | more than 5 years ago | (#26688199)

If you can triangulate, you can simply ignore anything outside the prison, and only check the authorization status for the phones inside it.

Re:Prison no-call blanket (1)

Gyga (873992) | more than 5 years ago | (#26688227)

How would the outside phones respond to being ignored by the towers if they are the strongest? It also takes time to triangulate (have to let the towers compare data/timing, calculate the distances from the three towers ...)

I would love to hear this "Please wait while we triangulate your position so we can determine whether or not to block your call and confiscate your phone."

Re:Prison no-call blanket (1)

vadim_t (324782) | more than 5 years ago | (#26688327)

Isn't triangulation a very simple and quick thing? 3 towers ping the phone, report data to a central server. The ping time corresponds to the distance from the tower (assuming no data loss). Distance should be trivial to calculate. Draw a circle around each tower (with location precisely known) with a radius corresponding to the distance the phone's at, and the phone will be in the place where all 3 intersect.

I'd be surprised if the whole thing took more than a second.

Even in the case it for some reason takes a long time, phones talk to towers constantly, and not only while making a call (how could you receive calls otherwise?), often even while they seem to be off.

And why would a check be forced before allowing a call to go through? It seems much better to let the call go through, log it, then take the phone away, using the logs as a justification of bad behavior to add extra prison time.

Re:Prison no-call blanket (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#26688377)

If the phone is in a radio reflecting room (a jail cell?) the signal may bounce around enough to make it impossible to locate the phone to the nearest metre.

Re:Prison no-call blanket (1)

vadim_t (324782) | more than 5 years ago | (#26688503)

You can probably still tell that it's somewhere on the inside and not the outside though. And narrow it down enough to only have to check a small area.

Re:Prison no-call blanket (1)

Ironsides (739422) | more than 5 years ago | (#26688383)

There's this thing called a directional antenna. You can use them to make sure the towers only pick up phones inside the prison.

Re:Prison no-call blanket (1)

supernova_hq (1014429) | more than 5 years ago | (#26688827)

...and anything on the other side of the prison!

Unless you plan on mounting said antenna 500 feet above the prison...

Re:Prison no-call blanket (1)

YesIAmAScript (886271) | more than 5 years ago | (#26688365)

Agreed completely. It would be easy to implement what you say. Standard micro-cells won't do triangulation, they have to have special ones, but this would be possible, and if the use them in enough places, affordable.

Of course, this wouldn't be legal for them to do without FCC permission either. But at least it would work better.

I once stayed in a hotel where WiFi access was free in the lobby but nowhere else. My balcony had a view of the lobby, and I could pick up the lobby Wi-Fi bases from the balcony, but they would wold cut me off quickly when I was coming from outside the lobby.
Clearly this hotel could develop a system where access was denied based upon physical location, despite allowing access from nearby. So I think prisons could manage it.

Triangulation anyone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26688161)

c'mon now. you can't tell me that it's that difficult to triangulate the position of a transmitter on a known frequency.

this is just sheer laziness/incompetence on the part of prison officials

Uh-huh. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26688173)

I predict a lot of police-bashing Orwellian nonsense cropping up in response to this. Which would be 100% justified, but consider this:

How long before some anarchic nerd tired of his cell phone randomly not working "for his own protection" grabs a plan for a phone jammer from the internet, upscales it, deploys it to the top of a random tree, (or a bunch of random tress) and blames it on the police?

Cue torches, pitchforks, stammering halfhearted public denials at press conferences, etc...

I want one too! (1, Flamebait)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 5 years ago | (#26688215)

Seriously, a cell phone jammer is the greatest testing device I ever had, when I was working on mobile projects. Think about in theaters, or just to watch people's faces when their call drops every five minutes on the train. Sorry I sound sadistic, but everyone has that side of them they should let out once in a while.

Re:I want one too! (1)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 5 years ago | (#26688297)

Theaters should use a Faraday's cage (by covering the wall with a metal net) instead of jammers, as it would prevent close buildings from receive or making calls.

And Here is the Problem in a Nutshell (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26688347)

Freedom for you, but not for me I guess. Parents with kids out on a date night that want to get a text message if something goes wrong. Professionals on call won't ever be able to see a movie or go to the theater.

You sir are part of the problem. Sorry for the harsh tone, but the hypocrisy over rights on the internet is just staggering.

Re:I want one too! (2, Insightful)

Compholio (770966) | more than 5 years ago | (#26688439)

Yes, because no-one ever has emergency issues ... say, for example, a heart attack while at the theater.

Re:I want one too! (4, Interesting)

Zackbass (457384) | more than 5 years ago | (#26688413)

The funny thing about this is that however many geeks there are that think it'd be fun to set up a jammer there's as many geeks out there who'd like nothing more than to track them down. I can see amateur radio operators having a field day (pun intended) hunting them down and helping the FCC hand out fines. No doubt crushing fines both because of the implications for emergency handling and because it's a strike against the telecoms. Tracking down cell phone jammers could become a major sport for radio operators if they become more common.

Re:I want one too! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26688867)

Posting anonymously for obvious reasons...

I work with a non-profit organization that hosts an annual 1 day event where we are lent VHF radios for use during that day. Due to the fact that only 1 or 2 of us (out of 30) actually have a license, we are warned only to use certain channels and to leave if anyone else appears.

There is 1 channel in particular that we are NEVER to use. We were told that if someone heard us on that channel, the guys that use it would have our location in literally 5 minutes. I've spoken to HAM radio enthusiasts and trust me, he wasn't kidding...

Moral of the story, don't fuck with a HAM Radio Guy's Channel!!!

No more uploading those police butality photos (5, Insightful)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 5 years ago | (#26688237)

With this the police can seize cell phones with evidence before the data is uploaded?

Can you blame them? (5, Insightful)

Trailer Trash (60756) | more than 5 years ago | (#26688321)

Seriously [liveleak.com] , it's [youtube.com] for [youtube.com] the [youtube.com] the [youtube.com] public [youtube.com] good [youtube.com] . You don't want people to be able to upload the videos before their phones are stolen...

Re:Can you blame them? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26688741)

Mod parent +1, Scary.

Whether that's the real motivation here or not, it's a virtual certainty that this power, if granted, would be abused in horrible ways.

Faraday cage? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26688341)

Wouldn't something like conductive paint or mesh/window films be more effective? Prevent RF from entering or leaving, and the problem is solved passively.

Re:Faraday cage? (1)

philspear (1142299) | more than 5 years ago | (#26688555)

Prisons are big, and I would guess that the materials and paint that would work would be pretty expensive.

There is also undoubtedly a lot of restrictions on what you can construct one out of to prevent prisoners from breaking pieces off and stabbing each other with them. Installation at least would be a major hassle, there's probably some type of security clearance construction workers working on active prisons have to have, and this would be a major job. And probably there would be at least one tinfoil hat lawsuit claiming the faraday cage was doing something with radiation and making prisoners sick.

I don't know, is it possible that if someone were to break a window that the cage would suddenly be useless?

This jammer could be turned on and off, giving you more flexibility, wheras a permanent cage couldn't. There are situations where you might want to allow the use of cell phones.

And, most importantly, guards do use radios and possibly other types of wireless communications. Is it possible to build a faraday cage that would ONLY block cell phone transmissions and not play havoc with the other communications?

All in all, I think this jammer would be safer, cheaper, and more effective than what you're suggesting. Just my non-expert opinion.

Re:Faraday cage? (1)

Gazoogleheimer (1466831) | more than 5 years ago | (#26688747)

It would work better if the prison was new rather than a retrofit (new, one could place grounded metal mesh inside the concrete)...a Faraday cage is an isolator in that it is a shield for RF, so that it would keep two-way radio traffic inside (and away from snoopers, if that is a wish) but one could also install a repeater to combat that if it is a problem...and additionally, I believe that a jammer has a propensity for a RF lawsuit (rather than a nonemitting device--a a tinfoil hat over the jail, per-se.) I'm not an expert either, though. As a ham radio operator, I do appreciate the laws against jamming, because such broadband devices often cause quite a bit of hash and spillover.

Re:Faraday cage? (2, Interesting)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 5 years ago | (#26688819)

That would work great until some prisoner got a guard in his cell and beat him up and the guard couldn't call for backup.

i'm all for it. (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 5 years ago | (#26688385)

as long as the police must pay damages and make public apologies when ANYONE elses communications are disrupted

NYPD Wants to Jam Cell Phones During Terror Attack (3, Informative)

auric_dude (610172) | more than 5 years ago | (#26688395)

As the attackers in Mumbai made use of phones and other mobile devices the NYPD wants top have the ability to cut mobile phone access as and when needed. As reported in Danger Room a short while ago http://blog.wired.com/defense/2009/01/nypd-eyes-disru.html [wired.com]

Re:NYPD Wants to Jam Cell Phones During Terror Att (1)

thesupraman (179040) | more than 5 years ago | (#26688743)

So, why not give them the right to get the cellular companies to disable cell towers?

Cell towers are also quite highly directional (they carry sets of antennas) so it can even be moderately selective.

If, of course we are talking a major terrorist level of activity.

My suspicion is however that it is more wanted for day-to-day police work - not quite the same thing though, is it..

News Flash: Talking Next (1)

msimm (580077) | more than 5 years ago | (#26688869)

After that maybe body language and eye contact. At some point we can view any limitation as an impediment to doing our jobs but I think with civil rule it's important to remember that part of that impediment, the limits and checks and balances, are an equally important part of the job. Because unless I missed the memo, absolute power still corrupts (or gets misused eventually anyway).

Prisons (4, Interesting)

mysidia (191772) | more than 5 years ago | (#26688445)

They don't need the ability to jam cell phone signals to stop them from being used in prisons.

Prisons are controlled facilities that can be designed from the ground up to provide ways of stopping unauthorized signals.

For example, by lining cells with tin, special paint, and other materials that block certain radio frequencies.

This could be done to the entire building, and would be much more effective and safer than periodic localized jamming during an emergency.

They could even be designed so that the measures are just strong enough to prevent cell phones from working, but still allow personnel to carry radios and other equipment with higher power transmitters, that would not be significantly impacted.

Another possibility is to place monitoring apparatus in each cell, and if a prisoner uses a cell phone or other radiocommunication device, a detector will trigger an alarm identifying the specific area from which a cell phone has been used.

The method of detection still allows any cell phone that happens to be in a prison facility in event of a life-threatening emergency, as a means to summon aid.

Micro Cells (3, Interesting)

PPH (736903) | more than 5 years ago | (#26688537)

Have prisons work a deal with the cellular network folks to set up some low power micro cells covering the prison facilities. All calls will be routed through the prison cell site. Legitimate users (staff) can have their phones 'whitelisted' to bypass the filtering and surveillance applications running on the base station.

Think of the intelligence the anti-gang units can accumulate by listening in on calls. Or even checking to see who is calling whom. Legitimate prisoner calls (from prison phones) are subject to monitoring, so this wouldn't be a big legal hurdle.

I call BS (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26688545)

This is absolute horsesh*t. Holding the Mumbai incident up as a reason for jamming is wrong. Yes, the terrorists used them to increase the effectiveness of their attack. But people caught in that situation also used them to 1) direct the authorities to the attackers, and 2) save their own lives.

So they should piss off and stop messing with communications.

I don't understand (0, Troll)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 5 years ago | (#26688589)

Is there a reason why inmates should not be allowed to have cell phones? I mean, they've got a legal right to phone privileges.

Prisons serve no purpose in the US. Sure, there's about a dozen different ideas why prisons exist, but none of these ideas are agreed upon and none of them are empirically measured to ensure prisons actually serve that purpose.

Re:I don't understand (3, Informative)

russotto (537200) | more than 5 years ago | (#26688757)

Prisons serve no purpose in the US. Sure, there's about a dozen different ideas why prisons exist, but none of these ideas are agreed upon and none of them are empirically measured to ensure prisons actually serve that purpose.

Prisons keep convicts separate from the the rest of the population. They also, through their existence and the existence of prison rape, serve as a deterrent to crime, particularly the sort of white collar crime ordinary people might consider committing (embezzlement, fraud, DMCA violation).

Re:I don't understand (2, Insightful)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 5 years ago | (#26688857)

Yes, thank you for using your awesome powers of ignorance and reading comprehension to make my point for me.

Re:I don't understand (1)

FrostDust (1009075) | more than 5 years ago | (#26688855)

The main issue in that situation is that the prison can monitor all phone communications made by prisoners, except where prohibited by law, such as a layer speaking to his/her client. This helps prevent, for example, gang-related activities, or inmates communicating info to and from their cohorts on the outside.

With cell phones, prisons don't have the ability, or at least the legal right, to monitor calls that route to outside cell phone towers. As previously mentioned by other posters, deploying cell phone towers inside the prison would automatically catch all cell phone calls made from the grounds, and be less intrusive than a cell phone jammer (in case a guest or employee wants to make a call, for example). Also, if you don't specifically tell the prisoners that the calls they are making from forbidden cell phones are being monitored, in addition to their allowed land-line usage, you might gain access to some juicy info.

Problems (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 5 years ago | (#26688687)

The main problem with this is that a cell phone is not becoming more and more of a tool used to increase freedom of the press. For example, someone in a prison could quickly videotape abuse and send it to a news agency with a cell phone, thus increasing freedom, but this law is a serious attack on free press.

isn't it the law (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 5 years ago | (#26688699)

that all mail to prisoners is subject to inspection?

isn't it an easy legal jump to say that cellphone traffic is subject to inspection as well? if such a law isn't already in place, forgive my ignorance in this area

of course you can block all cellphone/ mail traffic, but usually these kinds of communications are fodder for good intelligence. criminals in prison will try to conceal their communications with codes and signals, but with enough quality analysis, that's even more good intelligence: what are criminal organization's secret signals and code words?

it's always better to monitor than it is to block. give criminals a false sense of security, let secrets slip form their lips, and pounce at the right time

They don't really need to jam. (1)

Tiger4 (840741) | more than 5 years ago | (#26688745)

I somewhat agree jamming is a possible solution. But the prison in particular really don't need to do it. Instead, they should install micro-, nano-, or pico- cells right inside the walls of the prison. The cells need to use every available mobile (CDMA, TDMA, GSM, etc.) technology, and provide absolute five bar coverage at every point inside the fence.

      A typical cell will connect to the strongest signal it can get. They only look for a backup cell when the primary signal starts to waiver, and it is difficult to alter this behavior. The prison owned, operated, and monitored cells will capture every phone inside the fence. From there, it should be relatively easy to track who is calling whom. Or just route all calls through the prison switchboard, like the good old days. If a real civilian gets caught, apologize and route them through.

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