There was an important case out of Maryland yesterday. On Wednesday, the Court of Special Appeals in State of Maryland v. Kerron Andrews ruled that people do not give police permission to track them by simply by having a cell phone. That is the position of the State of Maryland and both the Bush and Obama administration as well as the Republican-controlled Congress. The Court ruled narrowly by simply saying police need a warrant before tracking your cell phone. The police and State have stated that they will appeal this all the way to the Maryland State Supreme Court. Just so they do not do not need the warrant to track anyone they want. Remember police get 90% or more of the warrants they apply for. Now the case is not that critical in actually protecting the Bill of Rights from the ever-expanding police and surveillance state. It is much more important to look at what it forced the government to reveal about its capabilities.
First, Baltimore announced that they had used StingRay devices against regular criminals (not terrorism-related cases) more than 4,300 times since 2007. This case was in 2014 and that is 7 years apart, thus approximately 12 times per week the USG is using fake cell phone towers to track Americans, just in Baltimore. Tracking your cell phone by the government is become really a standard procedure. 59 police departments in 23 states and 13 federal agencies including the DEA, FBI and IRA all use StingRay devices including the Boise police department.
“We conclude that people have a reasonable expectation that their cell phones will not be used as real-time tracking devices by law enforcement, and — recognizing that the Fourth Amendment protects people and not simply areas — that people have an objectively reasonable expectation of privacy in real-time cell phone location information.”
Also, we learn that “StingRay” is “like the first generation” according to the detective. The new Florida based Harris Corporation system is called Hailstorm. The entire genre of these devices is “fake cell phone towers” or IMSEI catchers. We also note the most likely murder Kerron Andrews reported to his lawyer that “his phone was acting weird.” That is what keyed her to question “…how did they know you were in that home.” The court also concluded that the Police State and the federales (FBI) had entered into a non-disclosure agreement with a private firm specifically to go around people’s Constitutional Rights and the ability of the Court to perform its constitutional duties. They claim their technology cannot be used to read any data from your phone, which I actually believe is a lie. The Snowden papers specifically say they do have that ability. They may not sell it to police, but the technology exists and therefore you know it is use. They do state that their technology can locate a cell phone within 20 yards.
Another interesting factoid is are “on the phone” this device cannot take over your phone. It is if you try to call someone or go to the Internet and you suddenly cannot (and you didn’t move) this may mean they are tracking that cell phone. Especially if a lot of people suddenly cannot use their phone. If you need to “go camping” you must destroy all electronic devices including your computer if you can. The military calls this “emergency destruction” and have covered ideas on the blog. An excellent start is “cell phone, meet the inside of the microwave” but you can read more on that in our post Destruction of computer media.
During normal usage it is much better to leave only your cell phone at your home then take it to the place you are meeting your buddies and then turn it off once you are there. This provides “the powers that be” the ability to track all the cell phones in one central area and thus infer connections. The Maryland case reminded us the Supreme Court has “ruled” that since you “know” that your GPS and cell phone data is being generated and shared with your phone company, you citizen are therefore giving permission for that company to share it, without a warrant with police. Wow. That is the state of our tyrannical government.
We use smartphones, but we managed them just like we handle our guns. Carefully. The applications I see as popular right now are WICKR, Signal and Silent Circle. These programs keep your actually phone calls and text messages and its metadata relatively secure with end-to-end encryption. Using StingRay like devices they will still know where your phone is, but they will have to work very hard to know who you are talking too. As Blackphone 2 has integrated itself too much with Google a company known to actively work with the police and surveillance state to compromise the Bill of Rights, the best you have is a Blackphone 1 (better) or an Apple device that you do not backup to the cloud and use the above applications. Again the only “relatively” secure method of communication in America in the 21st century is face-to-face without any device that has a power cord or battery around.