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By Scott B. Elkind, Esq.


The U.S. Military, FBI, spy agencies, and many local law enforcement agencies employ the Stingray (also called, Triggerfish, IMSI Catcher, Cell-site Simulator or Digital Analyzer) system for surveillance purposes. Basically, this system is a fake cell tower that mimics the receiving power of an actual cell phone tower. It can connect to a cellphone and gather data without the assistance of a cell phone carrier.

Most people are unaware that their cell phones are very capable location tracking devices. The cell phone constantly sends signals to the nearest cell tower(s) even when not being used. This is why when traveling, your battery power is depleted faster due to this constant tower searching. Data from you cell phone can be retrieved from your home, vehicle, or insulated buildings you are visiting. In addition, phone locator applications work with surprising effectiveness as the effect of cell tower location may be utilized in reverse. Thus, your position can be discovered from the presence of your active cell phone alone.

Private investigators are beginning to employ this new technology which can cost from $60 to 175K for a unit (with the cost expected to drop substantially as production and competition increases). A private investigators may come by your home or call you. They will claim to be from “Google Maps” or some other mapping company to check on your presence. Following this, the investigator will take signal readings from several positions. Thereafter, they will monitor your cell phone transmissions.

What is even more disturbing is that this device can monitor and gather data from all cell phones in a particular area.

Is it an invasion of privacy? This questions still remains unresolved as the first cases are beginning to enter the court system. So far, the Supreme Court has outlawed GPS trackers attached to vehicles. But, that is all so far.

So, what does this tell you? Watch what you are saying on your cell phone and be aware of vans with antennae sticking out of them. If you see one, just call the police and ask them to investigate. Although the investigator has a legal right to be there and, so far, to do this surveillance, such a call will cause a chilling effect as the investigator has “been made” and knows you will be careful about what is said in your cell phone conversations. In addition, you may wish to turn off your cell phone when not using it for periods of time. This will cause an investigator to leave a site as he cannot get your signal. Also, you might want to get a hard line which cannot be tapped without a court order.

But, then, campers, this is not the only worrisome new surveillance method. There are also cell phone applications such as Stealthgenie. This application must be placed on your cell phone, but remains invisible/undetectable. Then, the application tracks your movements. For the most part, this is being utilized for the surveillance of cheating spouses. So, never leave your cell phone unattended with another person who you do not want to track/stalk/investigate you.

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