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FBI Files Unlock History Behind Clandestine Cellphone Tracking Tool

concealment (2447304) writes | about a year ago

Government 0

concealment writes "Stingrays, as I’ve reported here before, are portable surveillance gadgets that can trick phones within a specific area into hopping onto a fake network. The feds call them “cell-site simulators” or “digital analyzers,” and they are sometimes also described as “IMSI catchers.” The FBI says it uses them to target criminals and help track the movements of suspects in real time, not to intercept communications. But because Stingrays by design collaterally gather data from innocent bystanders’ phones and can interrupt phone users’ service, critics say they may violate a federal communications law.

A fresh trove of FBI files on cell tracking, some marked “secret,” was published this week by the Electronic Privacy Information Center. They shed light on how, far from being a “new” tool used by the authorities to track down targets, Stingray-style technology has been in the hands of the feds since about 1995 (at least). During that time, local and state law enforcement agencies have also been able to borrow the spy equipment in “exceptional circumstances,” thanks to an order approved by former FBI Director Louis Freeh."

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