It really isn't a secret that someone is listening in on our conversations we make on cellular devices now days. Sometimes the sentiment that what we don't know won't hurt us is what keeps us from constantly worrying about how our cellular communications are being intercepted by some unknown entity. However, in the full scheme of how advanced technology is and how privacy is such a convoluted and controversial subject, people become up in arms and extremely outraged when it is revealed how someone is able to intercept cellular communications and listen in on their conversations. Little do people know, US Marshals are listening in to cellular communications through a specialized box affixed to an airplane flying overhead
Reports coming out of the Wall Street Journal explain details of how US Marshals armed with the proper equipment on sweeping airplanes, DRT boxes or "dirtboxes," are tricking mobile phones into communicating with the device. This is reportedly giving Marshals the ability to collect information from innocent Americans.
The US government has many surveillance programs revealed in the past years, and the US Marshalls listening in on cellular communications is just one out of several. For the most part, we can thank the infamous whistleblower Edward Snodwen for a bit of that information. There have been many advocacy groups along with activists that have expressed the idea of the government not having the legal right to collect information in such a dubious way through cellular communications.
Diagram illustrating DRT Boxes "Dirtboxes" used on planes to spy on subjects from the sky – Source: Wall Street Journal
Hanni Fakhoury, a staff attorney with Electric Frontier Foundation, an Internet civil rights advocacy group, has said that "The US Marshals should explain how this program works and what kind of court authorization, if any, they're obtaining."
The particular DRT boxes or "dirtboxes" used in the US Marshalls sweeping cellular devices to intercept communications utilizes a method to discard information not related to a specific suspect as shown in the image above. Other features of the device include the ability to pinpoint the location of a suspect within nine feet. Be that this technology is highly sophisticated, it may end up being the beginning to a new controversial uproar when it comes to privacy in use of mobile devices. Even with the initiative being in existence for over 7 years now, the legality of use is in question and could end up making headlines if enough people voice their opposition.
Do you think US Marshals and other government agencies have the legal right to scan or intercept cellular communications within the general public even if they suspect criminal activity?