US Marshals Using Fake Cellphone Towers on Small Planes

One of the more dominant news topics of this year has been regarding governmental surveillance of US citizens. While some say this is an important step to reduce terrorism and protect our country, others argue that this type of activity is outright spying and illegally violates the right to privacy. Big thanks to friend of the site Fersen Lambranho for sending in this news tip.

The program has been running since 2007 and is designed to pinpoint the location of an individual by exploiting a very basic vulnerability of all cell phones. Most cell phones will always attempt to connect to the closest signal. US Marshals have been using fake signals from planes to collect information on what they say is specific court warranted people. They then use this information to pinpoint the individual and make an arrest.

Since its start the program has been controversial. Typically law enforcement will try and hide the fact that they are using these legal, though controversial, methods. Critics argue that though the method is effective in catching criminals, it involves capturing data from over ten thousand phones at a time, making them uneasy about what law enforcement does with that data. Whether through drones, mass internet data collection, or the use of planes to capture cell phone data, it is clear that government and law enforcement surveillance will continue to be a dominant social issue for time to come.

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