back to article Used a cell phone in NYC? The cops probably tracked you

Police in New York City used stingray mobile phone trackers on more than one thousand occasions since 2008. So says the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU), which obtained records from NYPD detailing their use of the devices while investigating cases. According to the NYCLU report, between 2008 and May of 2015 police used …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Dear NYCLU

    Good luck with that.

  2. John 104

    Military Grade

    Throw that in there. It always makes things sound more scary.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How many?

    1000 for five years on 8 million people, perhaps it is not that unreasonable?

    1. Mephistro

      Re: How many?

      Actually, a Stingray device forces all nearby phones to connect to it, and the figures in the article don't include for how long the devices were used each time, nor the number of phones affected.

      Being quite the cynical regarding police forces and their usually lax interpretation of citizen's rights, I'd guess that all the data recorded was kept by said police forces, just in case. A thousand stingray deployments may well have captured data from many millions of devices.

  4. Mike 16 Silver badge

    Two comments

    1) The city's suggestion: "Don't turn on the phone" requires quite a bit of faith that the phone can actually be turned off. This is by no means guaranteed on a sealed phone with an "always on" baseband processor. Like, pretty much every phone being used by folks who can afford to live in NYC.

    2) Being in range of a Stingray also (IIRC) forces the phone down to 2G, where encryption is much weaker. If you have nothing to hide from random criminals who bought interception gear on the dark web, no problem. (Not to mention that your cat-videos get either very blocky or slow)

    1. Mephistro

      Re: Two comments

      The city's suggestion: "Don't turn on the phone" requires quite a bit of faith that the phone can actually be turned off

      It also requires that the citizens renounce to use phones in order to preserve one of their human rights, and in this connected world we live in the lack of a mobile phone probably will undercut several other citizen's rights by curtailing their ability to comunicate, socialize or even carry out their jobs.

      This Baltimore City's suggestion is absolutely sub-standard, even coming from politicians!

      1. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Re: Two comments

        Valid points. But if you're a crim, why turn on or carry a cellphone at all? I sure as hell wouldn't. But crims aren't always the brightest. Some even take pics of the crime and then share them.

        1. frank ly

          @ Mark 85 Re: Two comments

          Some time ago in Germany (I forget when or where I read it), the police were very suspicious of a man they stopped because he didn't have a mobile phone. They said to him that this indicated he was probably involved in criminal activity and didn't want to be monitored or traced.

          1. The little voice inside my head

            Re: @ Mark 85 Two comments

            What is the ideal response to these cases, do not track innocent peopke, only the bad guys, technology is not there yet, or is there... by employing better detectives? All comes down to money, cheaper to eavesdrop hundreds of thousands people than to pay 1000 teams of detectives...

            What is the name of a political system or government that when empowered by their people doesn't have an option to abuse the power given by them... we should start drafting something to this effect. Any proposals?

            1. Mark 85 Silver badge

              Re: @ Mark 85 Two comments

              Since you raised the point, supposedly, the Stingray system drops and ignores the phones of those the cops aren't interested in. I say "supposedly" because that's what the FBI claimed in court. Funny thing is, they've dropped charges against alleged crims rather than reveal how the system works or where the data (all the data) goes.

              I wasn't discussing "right" and "wrong" originally but only what I'd do if I were a crim.

    2. tom dial Silver badge

      Re: Two comments

      Those who are seriously concerned can purchase Faraday bags from various sources, including Amazon. If money is a problem, wrapping securely in aluminum foil ought to do a pretty good job. Those of us slow to update also have the option of popping out the battery on occasion.

      Either makes the phone pretty useless, though.

  5. Gray
    Boffin

    If people don't want to be ...

    "The city has countered with the argument that if people don't want to be tracked, they should not turn on their mobile phones..."

    If people don't want to be peeked upon, don't live in houses with windows.

    If people don't want to be censored, don't write thoughts on paper.

    If people don't want to be robbed, don't carry money.

    If people don't want to be defrauded, don't make investments.

    If people don't want to be arrested, don't walk on sidewalks or drive on streets.

    If people don't want to live in a police state, don't live in the United States.

    There ... unassailable logic.

    1. Oengus
      Black Helicopters

      Re: If people don't want to be ...

      "If people don't want to live in a police state, don't live in the United States."

      If people don't want to live in a police state, don't live in the United States on planet Earth.

      FTFY

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: If people don't want to be ...

      And I am not the first to point out that

      if people don't want to be tracked, they should not turn on their mobile phones

      is the same sort of bone-headed argument as

      if people don't want to be raped, they should not wear sexy clothes

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: If people don't want to be ...

        I frequently see signs around car parks....

        "Do not leave valuables in plain view in your car" or similar.

        Because there are people around who have very different minds than most of us and they don't feel any guilt when they commit a crime, nor do they consider the consequences or give any thought to the fact that justice is going to come after them.

        So, it's pretty smart to be defensive against such folk. Even though we have a perfect right to leave that laptop on display, there is always the one with the broken mind that we need to defend against.

        As for the NYPD tracking me on my last visit to NYC, that must have been very tedious for them.

  6. chivo243 Silver badge

    Bring back

    The good old Superman Phone Booth... I remember paying 10cents for a phone call in a phone booth!

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    to protect and to serve

    If you've done nothing wrong you've nothing to worry about

    1. qwertyuiop
      Big Brother

      Re: to protect and to serve

      If I've done nothing wrong you've got no reason to track me!

      1. Hero Protagonist

        Re: to protect and to serve

        "If I've done nothing wrong you've got no reason to track me!"

        Well if we don't track you then how are we supposed to know whether you've done anything wrong? Duh.

  8. scrubber

    Apart from the regular concerns

    If you use your phone in your house, aren't they breaking the 4th Amendment in an even more egregious way than normal?

    They *could* argue that using a mobile in public means you have no expectation of privacy - but that same argument cannot be made if you use your phone in your own house.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Apart from the regular concerns

      Do people still actually believe in the constitution since the government turned it into toilet paper?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Apart from the regular concerns

      >aren't they breaking the 4th Amendment

      They would be if the SCOTUS cared more about the constitution than their profession.

  9. Kay Burley ate my hamster

    IMSI-catchers are used routinely in London, running AIMSICD is an eye opener.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      IMSI-catchers are used routinely in London, running AIMSICD is an eye opener.

      .. although running Android to verify your privacy is irony worth noting :)..

      1. asdf

        Android != gapps but sadly valid warranty usually = gapps.

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