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The Scope of Mobile Surveillance

Do You Feel Safe?
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Nearly everyone has a cell phone these days. The technology has become an integral part of our everyday lives. There are many people that have forgone the use of “land-line” phones all together. According to the World Bank’s Data Center in the United States alone, 98 out of every 100 people have a cell phone in 2013, up from 89 out 100 in 2010. From the website Mobithinking.com, “There are 6.8 billion mobile subscriptions worldwide, estimates The International Telecommunication Union (February 2013). That is equivalent to 96 percent of the world population (7.1 billion according to the ITU). And is a huge increase from 6.0 billion mobile subscribers in 2011 and 5.4 billion in 2010.”
The emerging information that the National Security Agency has and continues to not only collect meta-data, (IE; location, phone numbers called and received, and texts) may seem benign to some. However, what should be shocking is that the NSA can virtually do this without oversight. With the Snowden leaks there has been much more vigilance paid to local law enforcement and the allocation of funds to support a surveillance state. There is a concerted effort by federal agencies to incorporate local municipalities into a nationwide grid of surveillance networks. This is evident in cities like Seattle where public reaction to a tool used by local law enforcement known as “mesh network” has reportedly been deactivated do to its capability of collecting all cell transmissions (up to 1000 devices simultaneously) within a certain radius of the receiver. These receivers were discovered by journalists at The Stranger and citizens, as they appeared on telephone poles throughout the city. It should be noted that when the mesh network was discovered the Seattle Police Department claimed that they would shut it down and upon further inquiry they had not done so. They do claim that, as this publication, the network is shut down. If the surveillance was lawful why would they first hide the fact that it had been initiated, then shut it down with very little resistance to protesters?
There are cities all over the country that are taking grant money from the Homeland Security Agency to implement programs just like the one in Seattle. According to Indystar an Indiana news agency, “ This year, the Indiana State Police paid $373,995 for a device that law enforcement personnel have described as a powerful tool in the fight against crime and terrorism.
It could allow investigators in a surveillance vehicle to park in a crowded area and track the movements of anyone nearby with a cell phone and capture the numbers of people's incoming and outgoing calls and text messages.
There is no doubt that with the proper implementation of the warrant process and independent oversight that this could be used for legitimate public safety issues. The problem is, there are just far too many abuses that have arisen as a result of the technology preceding the procedure. Revamping the warrant process in such a way as to incorporate the docket number of a warrant into the accessing of the software needed to conduct surveillance on a suspect, could prove helpful.
The Battle Creek Enquirer ran an article recently in which their parent company Gannet did an investigation into law enforcement personnel abusing the use of “mobile devices that tap into cell phone data in real time” in this study of 125 police agencies in 33 states,
• About one in four law-enforcement agencies have used a tactic known as a “tower dump,” which gives police data about the identity, activity and location of any phone that connects to targeted cellphone towers over a set span of time, usually an hour or two. A typical dump covers multiple towers and wireless providers and can net information from thousands of phones.
• At least 25 police departments own a Stingray, a suitcase-sized device that costs as much as $400,000 and acts as a fake cell tower. The system, typically installed in a vehicle so it can be moved into any neighborhood, tricks all nearby phones into connecting to it and feeding data to police. In some states, the devices are available to any local police department via state surveillance units. The federal government funds most of the purchases, via anti-terror grants. In Calhoun County, law enforcement officials claimed to have never even heard of the Stingray or similar devices.
• Thirty-six police agencies refused to say whether they’ve used either tactic. Most denied public records requests, arguing that criminals or terrorists could use the information to thwart important crime-fighting and surveillance techniques.
There is a good reason why police agencies do not let the public know about these systems that are becoming standard issue for all police departments in the country, because if you knew you would never allow it in your community.
The things that are being brought forth by the independent media, and largely ignored, or supported by large corporate media companies are not the full story on the scope of domestic surveillance of everyday citizens. If it were not for Bradley Manning we would have not known about the killing of innocent civilians by U.S. and British troops in Iraq. If not for Edward Snowden we not know that the NSA collected all the communications worldwide in some form or another. What do NOT know that our government is doing at this very minute? The surveillance state is here, what are we going to do about it?