Your invasion of privacy is now up in the air. Literally.
Devices that gather information from millions of phones are being flown
over the United States by the government, according to a report by the Wall Street
The device, also known as a “dirtbox,” works by imitating the signals of a
cell phone tower.
Cell phones actively look for these signals. When the cell phone connects to
what it thinks is a tower, it sends its unique registration information and location to
the dirtbox instead.
Now these are the pressing questions: under what law is the government
allowed to do this, and what are they doing with the data?
The U.S. Department of Justice refused to confirm or deny the report.
It is not clear how close the program is being supervised by the justice
“What is done on U.S. soil is completely legal,” said one person familiar
with the program. “Whether it should be done is a separate question.”
The primary targets for these devices are criminals, but thousands of
innocent Americans are caught in the fire.
Those close to the operation say that the dirtboxes are being flown out of at
least five major airports. The operation has been reportedly running since 2007.
The dirtbox has a reported accuracy of 10 feet. This is enough to pick out a
specific room in a building. The flying range of the dirtbox can cover most of the
That’s about 319 million people.
The WSJ report also claims that newer versions of the system can download
files, store pictures and jam signals from devices.
These devices are similar to the Stingray devices used by cops. The Stingray
is used in regions across the country, from Florida to California. It works by
mimicking cell phone towers to track the locations of all phones in a given area.
The big difference between the Stingray and dirtbox device is that the
Stingray can only be attached to the back of a car or van. It could only track the
phones in a specific area around the tracker.
With the dirtbox being in the air, its range is limitless.
When referring to the more limited range of the Stingray, Principal
Technologist Chris Soghoian from the American Civil Liberties Union said:
“Maybe it’s worth violating privacy of hundreds of people to catch a suspect, but is
it worth thousands or tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of peoples’
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