ACLU sues Homeland Security over 'stingray' phone surveillance

nanoguy

TS Addict
Staff member

Privacy seems to be at a premium these days, and even big tech companies that are the biggest proponents of more stringent rules don't always practice what they preach. Just this past week Apple inadvertently revealed through a lawsuit that it is routinely collecting phone calls and messages of its employees.

The Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have been involved in numerous privacy debacles over the last few years, but now the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is suing them for failing to produce public materials that disclose how they use "stingrays."

Stingrays are essentially cell sites that act like the real ones used by wireless carriers, so they can be used to trick phones into connecting to them. Law enforcement agencies can then identify, locate, and track those phones, but in the process they also get information about phones of innocent people, which introduces the potential for abuse and mishandling of the collected data.

According to a 2016 report from the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, ICE and CBP had already spent $13 billion on 92 stingrays. Keep in mind that these are also able to observe call records and text messages, and history shows the two agencies aren't doing their best job to protect the data they collect.

An ACLU spokesperson notes "the public has a right to know if and how often ICE and CBP are using Stingrays, which were originally intended for use by the military and intelligence agencies, for civil immigration enforcement operations." The civil liberties group is asking the two agencies to sound off on what steps they have taken to ensure stingrays aren't used against innocent bystanders, and whether they disclose their use in immigration court proceedings.

We know Stingrays have been in use by law enforcement around the country to conduct surveillance operations, but this could quickly turn into a national security issue. Last year, the Department of Homeland Security said it had knowledge of several unauthorized stingrays operating in Washington, DC, leading to speculation that they may have been used by foreign spies.

Permalink to story.

 

MilwaukeeMike

TS Evangelist
Remember when people actually had to commit violations of civil rights before they got in trouble? Now law enforcement getting sued for
failing to produce public materials that disclose how they use stingrays.
So ICE and CBP 's crime is not having a website with a page that said how they use stingrays? (or maybe they could have printed off some brochures.) I thought the ACLU was supposed to actually help victims of civil rights violations. They must really be scraping for work.

This statement is confusing too
The civil liberties group is asking the two agencies to sound off on what steps they have taken to ensure stingrays aren't used against innocent bystanders.
Considering everyone is innocent until proven guilty I'm guessing the steps they have taken is none.

We know Stingrays have been in use by law enforcement around the country to conduct surveillance operations, but this could quickly turn into a national security issue.
How is that? Taking them away from law enforcement wouldn't solve a national security issue. We'd have an issue because terrorists or whoever would be using them. Taking tools away from the cops doesn't stop the criminals from using them, it just makes it harder on the cops.

You know, if the ACLU was run by organized crime they'd be doing pretty much exactly the type of thing they do in the name of 'helping us'.
 

jpuroila

TS Booster
Remember when people actually had to commit violations of civil rights before they got in trouble? Now law enforcement getting sued for

So ICE and CBP 's crime is not having a website with a page that said how they use stingrays? (or maybe they could have printed off some brochures.) I thought the ACLU was supposed to actually help victims of civil rights violations. They must really be scraping for work.
So you don't care if your civil rights are being violated as long as there's no documentation proving that it's happening?
 

MilwaukeeMike

TS Evangelist
So you don't care if your civil rights are being violated as long as there's no documentation proving that it's happening?
I don't see how the documentation matters either way. By forcing law enforcement to broadcast how they work it a) doesn't actually change any behavior of law enforcement - so our rights would be 'violated' anyway. and b) it just lets criminals know how to avoid getting caught.

This sort of thing only helps criminals. They did something similar in my city. The police chief was worried about dangerous police chases, so they passed a policy that the police wouldn't chase criminals suspected of non-violent crimes. Great! The public is safe right? But now cars get stolen all the time because criminals know they won't be chased. We've even had a couple cars stolen with kids in them. Some mom went to pay for gas and left her keys and kid in the car and someone jumped in and drove off. No one got hurt, but it is possible for restricting law enforcement to go too far. I know it's a tough balance, but the ACLU seems to be on the wrong side of it too often.

Not to mention - law enforcement budgets are already stretched thin - now they have to lawyers for this?!
 

brucek

TS Guru
Even if future legislation were to make these devices unambiguously legal, I still don't understand how lying to judges and juries about them has been remotely legal until now.

If I were a judge and I had one of the cases where the FBI agent lied in sworn affidavits and/or open court about where information came from, I'd want someone's *** for sure.
 
I have some noise level money in Navy Federal Credit Union. I called them up because they sent me a notice that just leaving the money there won't work because the state wants to take any money that no one claims regularly. I'm telling them 'yes' I'm still here, alive, and paying taxes. The guy on the phone says he can't accept my identity TO LEAVE THE MONEY ALONE NOT TAKE IT OUT, because they checked social media and social media can't identify me. I said WTF!! and got irate of course. Who the hell? What social media is the credit union requiring me to join to prove I'm who I say I am? "Oh can't say. That would be revealing methods and then the bad guys would be using that to steal other people's money." No matter how stupid it sounds, it IS a security practice that's better than no security practice.

Pretty sure the same type of thing applies to Stingray Surveillance. The ACLU has long abandoned constitutional civil rights to get into, so called, 'social' civil rights because there are bigger donors there among the 'coasties' and they can add this to hot buttons. The Justice people are right to be stubborn. You simply don't tell everyone how you do it if you're trying to secure a methodology because there's a plethora of people working to get around law enforcement and their methods.

If you're a believer in privacy and everyone has a way to invade your privacy including those you don't VOLUNTEER to be invaded by for 'FREE STUFF!' then you should be taking proactive steps to protect your privacy. The jokes about the 'cone of silence' go back to the 60s and hard wiring. People thought about phone conversation privacy 50 years ago. There is smart phone 'cone of silence' stuff available.

If you're a 'normal' (and I'm not), and you volunteer your privacy for 'free stuff', then 'qwicher belliakin' about the government and law enforcement trying to protect you and your neighborhood. Every voice activated item and IOT doorbell is already listening to you.
 

jpuroila

TS Booster
I don't see how the documentation matters either way. By forcing law enforcement to broadcast how they work it a) doesn't actually change any behavior of law enforcement - so our rights would be 'violated' anyway.
No, but it does allow those agencies to be sued for the actual violations.
 

MilwaukeeMike

TS Evangelist
No, but it does allow those agencies to be sued for the actual violations.
Exactly - they're digging for things to sue for. More money spent on lawyers, more reasons for the ACLU to say they're 'helping' us when they ask for donations.

There's a balance between protecting our freedom/rights and giving power to law enforcement. The ACLU is starting to cross to the wrong side of it. There are things in the middle of this balance... like 'Stop and Frisk' policies - where police are allowed to frisk you if you're pulling up your pants constantly (cause there's something heavy in it, like a gun). You could argue that's an invasion of privacy. The person did nothing wrong to deserve a frisking, and you'd be right. The counterpoint would be looking at how effective these policies were in reducing crime in NY in the 90's. It's an invasion of privacy but it was effective.

What if security cameras were outlawed to protect the privacy of regular customers who didn't want to be recorded? That would obviously help criminals more than it's providing any freedom to the average shopper.

Law enforcement should not be sued for using devices that track your phone. They can't hear what you say, they can't see what you text. Ending the practice would help criminals more than it helps us.
Go find some real violation of rights ACLU. if you're having trouble finding people to sue for civil rights violations, that's a GOOD thing, stop finding problems where they don't exist.
 

jpuroila

TS Booster
Exactly - they're digging for things to sue for. More money spent on lawyers, more reasons for the ACLU to say they're 'helping' us when they ask for donations.

There's a balance between protecting our freedom/rights and giving power to law enforcement. The ACLU is starting to cross to the wrong side of it. There are things in the middle of this balance... like 'Stop and Frisk' policies - where police are allowed to frisk you if you're pulling up your pants constantly (cause there's something heavy in it, like a gun). You could argue that's an invasion of privacy. The person did nothing wrong to deserve a frisking, and you'd be right. The counterpoint would be looking at how effective these policies were in reducing crime in NY in the 90's. It's an invasion of privacy but it was effective.

What if security cameras were outlawed to protect the privacy of regular customers who didn't want to be recorded? That would obviously help criminals more than it's providing any freedom to the average shopper.

Law enforcement should not be sued for using devices that track your phone. They can't hear what you say, they can't see what you text. Ending the practice would help criminals more than it helps us.
Go find some real violation of rights ACLU. if you're having trouble finding people to sue for civil rights violations, that's a GOOD thing, stop finding problems where they don't exist.

So in other words, as far as you're concerned, NSA and other agencies should freely be allowed to violate civil rights as long as they do so covertly? I guess you also find guantanamo bay and torturing people to be okay as long as it doesn't get into the news papers.
 

MilwaukeeMike

TS Evangelist
So in other words, as far as you're concerned, NSA and other agencies should freely be allowed to violate civil rights as long as they do so covertly? I guess you also find guantanamo bay and torturing people to be okay as long as it doesn't get into the news papers.
Yup, take what I say and run all the way to the illogical extreme. So if I say I don't like mushrooms on my pizza you'll come back with 'So no one should eat vegetables then?! You want all the farmers to just up and quit?!'

I said there's a careful balance, and this falls on the wrong side of it.
I don't think phone location tracking and torture really fall into the same category of civil rights violations.
 

jpuroila

TS Booster
Yup, take what I say and run all the way to the illogical extreme. So if I say I don't like mushrooms on my pizza you'll come back with 'So no one should eat vegetables then?! You want all the farmers to just up and quit?!'

I said there's a careful balance, and this falls on the wrong side of it.
I don't think phone location tracking and torture really fall into the same category of civil rights violations.
If you don't hear about the violations related to phone location tracking, what the hell makes you think you'll hear about the torture?
 

MilwaukeeMike

TS Evangelist
If you don't hear about the violations related to phone location tracking, what the hell makes you think you'll hear about the torture?
Why are you comparing this to torture? And this story is about the ACLU suing, not the scope of news reporting.

To answer your question (as off topic as it is) we'd hear about torture and not location tracking because torture is serious and a big deal, location tracking isn't. They're completely different.