Aircrafts are being used to gather data from millions of cellphones. The technology uses airplanes with attached devices called Dirtboxes that act like a cellphone towers. Even though the technology is targeted at fighting the crime, it definitely can be used to gather information about innocent people. At least five metropolitan-are airports cooperate with the government. These five airports cover most of the US territory and enables the tracking technology to track most of the US citizens.
Over the time of one flight the system is able to collect identifying information and location of tens of thousands of cellphones users. According to people that have information about the system the flights are completed on regular basis.
The government supports such information scoop because phone records supposedly help them identify terrorists.
The device itself uses the secretive stingray technology that tricks cellphones that the Dirtbox is the closest cellphone tower and phone or other mobile device connects to the tracking system. Stingray then can see ID number and information about the location of the device.
Similar methods have already been widely using land transportation. This method enables authorities to pin point the location of the device with much higher accuracy than using information from the cellphone tower. The increased accuracy is increased because by using cars and other vehicles authorities are able to collect data from various locations. Later on they can use mathematical formulas to pin point the device.
One of the biggest pointed flaws of the system is that it does not have any method to filter out specific devices from all the other devices that connect to a nearby cellphone tower. It means that whenever such system is in your device’s signal range it is tricked into connecting to the tracking system instead of the cellphone tower. Therefore, every time you are in the area scanned using this method all your information is accessible to government and other authorities involved with the stingray systems. This problem is further emphasized when the method is performed using airplanes that allows to scan much bigger areas than a land transportation.
The worries most privacy experts are having are acknowledged by government as they say that only data related to the suspect is kept and while all other data is deleted. However, there are no guarantees that they indeed retain only data related to the person under investigation. Thus the concern about the system still remain.
Furthermore, it is unknown for how long this tracking method has been used. There are sources indicating that it was used 6 years ago though in reality it may have been used for far longer.
The systems use is likely not limited with the five airports since it is common to loan out equipment to police departments across the country. Therefore, it is likely that they loan the system to other agencies as well. One of these possible agencies is U.S. Customs Border Control that monitors the border and suspicious activity around it.
Anybody who is concerned about their privacy should not ignore this tracking method as important information from millions of unaware people is obtained. Furthermore, there are no guarantees that similar systems will not be used by criminals to steal your identity. Therefore we recommend use VPN protection to secure your most important information from third parties. With NordVPN you will always be protected from hackers, ISP and government.