Baltimore Police Using Secret Technology to Track Cell Phones - BestCyberNews: Online News Presenter in the present world

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Baltimore Police Using Secret Technology to Track Cell Phones

Baltimore police have been using an invasive device known as a “stingray” to track cellphones thousands of times in recent years. They have collected and withheld this information from courts at the behest of the FBI.

The news comes as courts wrestle with cellphone privacy and potential violations of the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution that protects citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures of property by the government.

The stingray device mimics a cellphone tower, tricking devices into connecting with it. These forced connections allow the operators of the stingray to obtain information unique to the cellphone for tracking purposes.

Stingray devices imitate cell phone towers, making phones send identifying information.

The police, who try to keep the device under wraps, officially use it to track stolen phones or to find people. The devices can also be used to make cellphones ring or otherwise indicate their presence in a certain location for investigatory purposes.

According to Baltimoresun, a copy of the non-disclosure agreement between the FBI and police department outlining terms for using the technology.

The document said revealing details of the device -- even in criminal trials -- would "adversely impact criminal and national security investigations."

Florida's Supreme Court ruled in October that police must get warrants to track criminal suspects by monitoring their cellphone location signals.

Former U.S. Judge Brian L. Owsley, a law professor at Indiana Tech, said he was "blown away" by the Baltimore figure and the terms of the nondisclosure agreement. "That's a significant amount of control," he said.

Agencies have invoked the nondisclosure agreement to keep information secret. At a hearing last year, a Maryland State Police commander told state lawmakers that "Homeland Security" prevented him from discussing the technology.

In Maryland U.S. District Court last fall, an argument about the stingray device was cut short when the suspects took plea deals. And on Wednesday, following Cabreja's testimony, prosecutors and defense attorneys entered into plea negotiations instead of debating the merits of the stingray further.

In cases where the stingray becomes a sticking point, Wessler said, "defense attorneys are being able to get really good deals for their clients, because the FBI is so insistent on hiding all of these details."

"There are likely going to be a lot of defense attorneys in Baltimore who may have an opportunity to raise these issues," Wessler said. "They are on notice now that their clients may have some arguments to make in these cases."

Author Venkatesh Yalagandula Follow us Google + and Facebook and Twitter