In these Orwellian times, the Detroit Police Department (“DPD”) has obtained a cell-site simulator (“CSS”). It’s a surveillance technology that locates and tracks phones by mimicking cellphone towers.
The DPD bought the technology for $622,000 and began using it in October 2017. From January 1, 2018, through October 31, 2018, the CSS was deployed at least 66 times—an average of three times every two weeks. The phone location information collected by the CSS isn’t limited to targets of police investigations but includes hundreds, even thousands, of innocent passersby.
“If you’re pinging my cellphone for my location, that’s private information,” said Michigan State Representative Peter Lucindo. “These simulators — it’s called overreach of the criminal justice system.”
The Supreme Court ruled last year that cellphone location data is private information, and law enforcement would generally need probable cause and a warrant to track someone through his or her cellphone or other mobile device. Yet some police departments, like Chicago’s, have reportedly used CSS without a warrant by misrepresenting the surveillance technology capabilities, truthout.org reports.
The Michigan State Police (“MSP”) also possesses CSS. Through public records requests, the ACLU of Michigan discovered that the MSP has secretly used the device since 2006. MSP claimed the CSS was “vital to the war on terrorism,” but the technology hadn’t been used in a single terrorism investigation as of 2015.
As law enforcement agencies across the nation use CSS, don’t worry if you lose your cellphone. The cops can tell you where it is—and where you are at all times.
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